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Threes Challenge

Can you solve the Threes Challenge? Can you use exactly four threes and your choice of arithmetical symbols to form the target numbers?

What is the Threes Challenge?

Using exactly four threes, add arithmetical symbols between the threes to make each of the target numbers. You may use plus, minus, times, and divide symbols, as well as parentheses and brackets for grouping.

This a fun twist on the classic Four Fours Challenge.

Source of Challenge

I discovered this challenge based on the number three in Pierre Berloquin’s 100 Numerical Games book.

I picked up a copy of the book several years ago at Goodwill, and it has inspired numerous classroom activities over the years. Previously, I have blogged about the 20 x 9 Challenge and the Twos Challenge.

Ideas for Using in Class

I have previously used this challenge with students on the first day of school as part of the Twos to Nines Challenge. I put challenges up for each of the numbers from two to nine around the classroom for students to tackle.

threes challenge hanging on dry erase board.

I created a printable template for the threes challenge that already has the four threes written in. Students just have to add various mathematical symbols to make each expression mathematically correct.

threes challenge screenshot.

For puzzles like this, I usually only print a class set of copies in order to save paper. I prefer to give my students these puzzles in a dry erase pocket. You can pick them at places like Dollar Tree and Target’s Dollar Spot, but I’ve found they are much cheaper when you buy a classroom set from somewhere like Amazon.


dry erase pockets

I cannot imagine teaching math without my dry erase pockets! They instantly make any activity more engaging and save me countless hours at the copy machine since I can use the same class sets of copies year after year.

Here are my current go-to recommendations:

If you don’t have a classroom set of dry erase pockets, you could also use heavy duty sheet protectors. But, I highly recommend investing in a classroom set of the pockets since they are so much more durable.

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.