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Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba – A Logic Puzzle for Introducing Arithmetic Sequences

The last time I taught Algebra 1, I used Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba to introduce the idea of arithmetic sequences. I tweeted about it, but in the craziness of packing up my classroom and house to move last summer they never made it up on my blog.

step puzzles by naoki inaba

I was first introduced to the amazing logic puzzles of Naoki Inaba in 2016 when I discovered his area maze puzzles which have become quite popular.

On his website (which is entirely in Japanese…), Inaba shares a collection of logic puzzles that are PERFECT for the math classroom. I ended up creating an entire page on my blog dedicated to Inaba’s puzzles.

Instructions for Naoki Inaba's Step puzzles.

Since then, I’ve slowly been in the process of translating these puzzles and putting them into a more user friendly format for use in the classroom. So far, I’ve blogged about Angle Mazes, Zukei Puzzles, and Kazu Sagashi Puzzles.

Original Japanese Version of Naoki Inaba Step Puzzles
Original Japanese Version of Naoki Inaba Step Puzzles
Original Japanese Version of Naoki Inaba Step Puzzles

At the beginning of this month, Simon Gregg tweeted me to ask if I had reformatted Inaba’s Step Puzzles to fit more to a page than the original PDF. I had, and this tweet reminded me that I was over a year late in blogging about this!

I like to introduce step puzzles to students by showing them a puzzle and its solution and asking them to figure out the rules of the puzzle.

Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba

Because of this problem-solving based introduction to step puzzles, I have not typed out the instructions on the puzzle sheet that I give to students. I have another reason for this. These puzzles are accessible for students as young as elementary school. They are still engaging for middle school and high school students. But, with these age groups, students can be instructed to place numbers in each circle so that each line forms an “arithmetic sequence.” This proper vocabulary would likely intimidate an elementary student who could easily tackle these puzzles with an age appropriate introduction.

The puzzles start out quite simply. 

Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba

Sometimes my students have used the first puzzle to make an incorrect assumption about how the puzzles work. They assume that 1, 2, 3 is the answer to the first puzzle because 1 + 2 = 3. When really, it is 1, 2, 3 because 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 + 1 = 3. You can check student understanding of this by having them solve the second step puzzle 3, 5, ___. The correct answer is 7. Students with the prior misunderstanding would answer 8.

I’ve found that once I set students straight from this misunderstanding that they seem to be good to start tackling the puzzles on their own.

The puzzles quickly progress in difficulty. Soon students have to start figuring out where to start solving the puzzle. If students start in the wrong place, the puzzle will seem impossible.

Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba
Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba

Before I close out this blog post, check out how Simon Gregg combined WODB (Which One Doesn’t Belong) with Step Puzzles!

Free Download of Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba

You can download Inaba’s original Japanese version of these puzzles here.

Here are my space-saving versions I created for classroom use.

Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba (PDF) (3152 downloads )

Step Puzzles by Naoki Inaba (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (1375 downloads )

Puzzle Solutions

I intentionally do not make answers to the printable math puzzles I share on my blog available online because I strive to provide learning experiences for my students that are non-google-able. I would like other teachers to be able to use these puzzles in their classrooms as well without the solutions being easily found on the Internet.

However, I do recognize that us teachers are busy people and sometimes need to quickly reference an answer key to see if a student has solved a puzzle correctly or to see if they have interpreted the instructions properly.

If you are a teacher who is using these puzzles in your classroom, please send me an email at with information about what you teach and where you teach. I will be happy to forward an answer key to you.


Tuesday 23rd of February 2021

This is great, but could you share your answer keys? Also, how do you help students know where to start. I love your blog! Thanks for such great ideas.

Sarah Carter

Wednesday 26th of May 2021

Naoki Inaba has an answer key for this puzzle on his website!

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