Independent Math Activities for Gifted Students


March 17, 2024
boy in front of chalkboard covered with math equations

Are you looking for enriching independent math activities for your gifted students, math loving kids, and/or early finishers? I have added enrichment options and projects to most of my posts in the How To Teach Key Math Concepts section. Here are a few of my other favorites to help them develop their spatial reasoning, critical thinking, and logic skills.

Printable Activities

Challenge Problems

Open Middle is a great source of challenge problems at every grade level.

Esti Mysteries (students might also like making their own)

Online Activities

The Daily Set Puzzle and Karma Puzzle

Beast Academy online demo

Transum Puzzles

Mathigon. I recently discovered this amazing resource as one of my most gifted 5th grade students uses it often in his free time at home. While Mathigon has wonderful interactive lessons for 6th grade and up, the Polypad can be used by much younger students. It has colorful easy to use virtual tiles including polygons, polyominoes, tangrams, Penrose tiles, pentagon tilings, fractals and 3D solids that students can use to make and save their own designs. It has other virtual manipulatives including number tiles, fraction bars, and fraction circles. It has playing cards, dot cards, dominoes, coins and spinners. And that is only the tip of the iceberg of what the polypad has to offer. I will soon write a whole post about Mathigon, but for now trust me and check it out!

For younger students try PBS Kids games. They are of surprisingly high quality for math and spatial thinking, particularly the Odd Squad games (I especially love Pienado and Down the Tubes)

Visual Spatial Puzzles

If you’re willing to buy some physical puzzles, here are some of my favorites!

Solved game
IQ Fit game solved by one of my students
  • Kanoodle is another game similar to IQ Fit. It has the same idea of fitting the pieces but also has 3D pyramid puzzles which some of my students loved even more. There are several variations of this one including Kanoodle Jr , Kanoodle Extreme, Kanoodle Head to Head, and Kanoodle Gravity.
3-D Kanoodle puzzle built by student
3D pyramid Kanoodle puzzle built by one of my students
  • Set can be played as a group game but is also an excellent independent activity. You can buy the cards or play online here

Physical Logic Puzzles

  • Animal Logic. This game for 1 player from Fat Brain Toys comes with 18 colorful wooden animals, a game board, and 60 puzzle cards that increase in difficulty. The player places the animals on the game board to match each card, then must make each animal cross the river one at a time. Each animal can only follow an animal of the same species and color.
  • Chocolate Fix is a logic game from Think Fun with 40 challenge cards and a tray of 9 play chocolates to arrange according to each challenge.
  • Rush Hour is a car themed “traffic jam” logic game also from Think Fun. It too comes with 40 challenge cards from beginner to expert level. It has won many awards including Mensa Select.
  • Sumoku

Interesting Math Books

My GT students love looking through math challenge/puzzle books and choosing the topics that interest them. This is one of the best independent activities for GT students as it requires no set up and can allow them something to do in whatever amount of time they have. Here are a few of their favorites (only recommending books I have actually used and liked.)

  • Math For Smarty Pants
  • Mathmagic
  • Mathamazing
  • The Everything Kids’ Math Puzzle Book
  • The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat
  • Growing Patterns: Fibonacci in Nature (see here for a whole post about teaching Fibonacci sequence)
  • Biographies or historical fiction about famous mathematicians are also fun for the kids to read. I have a post of suggestions here They could do a poster or project to teach the rest of the class about their mathematician. For a simpler and shorter activity take a picture of their mathematician using the Chatterpix Kids app and record an audio clip to make it talk!

Creative Activities and Projects

Many GT students enjoy creating their own math games and task cards for other students to play or solve. I have had great success giving them materials such as index cards, dice, spinners, posterboard, and markers as well as examples of the types of problems to include. They have come up with fabulously creative ideas!

Other students enjoy making their own anchor charts, writing and illustrating math stories or even creating strategy guides for other kids. This is a great way to encourage GT students to think through problem solving steps that they often do mentally or automatically, and teach them to explain their thinking.

Finally, you might be surprised how many GT students tell me they would really like free time just to explore manipulatives. We often think of manipulatives such as pattern blocks, Cuisenaire Rods, pentominoes, fraction tiles, and centimeter cubes as being for our struggling students. However, many GT students have very creative ideas for using the manipulatives and are able to discover many concepts for themselves while using them. (I had a second grader figure out the formula for volume just by building with centimeter cubes.) Give them a chance to play and see what they can do! (The polypad mentioned in the online activities session has absolutely incredible virtual manipulatives)

If you would like all of this information plus a lot more in PDF form I have developed a 37 page digital resource for parents called Challenging Your Mathematically Gifted Child. Please email me at

Also if you have other favorite independent math activities for gifted students, please add them in the comments!

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