Coloured Sheep

A Maths Starter of The Day

There are 12 sheep in a field as shown here:

Yellow Sheep Yellow Sheep Yellow Sheep Blue Sheep Blue Sheep Green Sheep Green Sheep Red Sheep Red Sheep Red Sheep Red Sheep Red Sheep

1. How many sheep can say that there is at least one other sheep here of the same colour?

2. The farmer takes one sheep from the field at random. What is the probability it is
    a) Yellow   b) Blue   c) Green   d) Not red ?

[Give your answers as decimals to two decimal places]


Topics: Starter | Probability

  • Mr Heeley's Y7 lambs, Rawthorpe High School
  • We think your joke is a bit woolley! We think, however, that this is a fine starter, in fact it's baaarilliant!!
    God bless you x
  • Mrs. Grace, Hardwick School, South Australia
  • This is a great starter to begin the day with. The students thought that it was great.
  • MSJ, 8x3
  • Keenan thought it was Baarilliant.
  • Mrs Porter, Upholland High
  • Fantastic starter - have used it with all years of all abilities Level 4 to A* - just change the questions to get some very difficult conditional probability questions.
    Also planning to use it to introduce ratio - it has been the most useful starter so far.
  • M Phillips, Dorset
  • Great activity.
    Has the word "not" been forgotten in the part d answer?
  • Transum,
  • Thanks M Phillips for pointing out the error. It has now been corrected.
  • Zoe Thompson, Channing Junior School, Highgate
  • I found this GREAT!! I loved it and found it challenging but not so I didn't want to do it!
    It has made maths REALLY fun for the kids, and it is a GREAT way for the kids to start the day!
  • Mr Khaira, Marriotts School
  • I think this an absolutely delightful question but surely the answer is 12, I don't get it.
  • Transum,
  • A yellow sheep has two lambs. One of them is male. What is the probability that the other lamb is male? Some say one half but others say that there are four different options. The two lambs, in order of age, could be MM, MF, FM or FF. If we know one is a male that eliminates the FF option. That leaves three possibilities, MM, MF and FM. Two out of these three possibilities have one of the lambs being female so the probability that the other lamb is male is one third. So is the correct answer one half or one third?
  • Mr Smith & S1 Class., Renfrew High School
  • Transum, surely an array such as MM, MF, FM and FF is order specific and whilst you eliminate FF correctly, should FM not also be removed given that the 'first' lamb was not F. This would leave you with MM and MF as the only two remaining options and with MM being the only one producing a further M lamb then the probabilty returns to the original predicition of 1/2. Just our thoughts on a very thought provoking question. Thank you.
  • Mr Smith & S1 Class., Renfrew High School
  • We are humbled and have realised we misread the question, we made the assumption that it was the gender of the first lamb, but upon re-reading the question Ben pointed out that it simply said 'one lamb' not the 'first lamb'. Thoroughly enjoyable.

How did you use this starter? Can you suggest how teachers could present or develop this resource? Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for Maths teachers anywhere in the world.
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Previous Day | This starter is for 19 May | Next Day



Note to teacher: Doing this activity once with a class helps students develop strategies. It is only when they do this activity a second time that they will have the opportunity to practise those strategies. That is when the learning is consolidated. Click the button above to regenerate another version of this starter from random numbers.

Online Maths Shop

Laptops In Lessons

Teacher, do your students have access to computers?
Do they have iPads or Laptops in Lessons?

Whether your students each have a TabletPC, a Surface or a Mac, this activity lends itself to eLearning (Engaged Learning).

Laptops In Lessons

Here a concise URL for a version of this page without the comments.

Here is the URL which will take them to a related student activity.

Student Activity


Striped Sheep

The wool on each of these sheep is of two different colours.

Striped Sheep

What is the probability of two sheep being picked at random sharing a wool colour?



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Curriculum Reference

See the National Curriculum page for links to related online activities and resources.


More Sheepish Activities

How accurately could you estimate the number of sheep in a field without counting them? If there were only five sheep in the field your estimate would probably be very accurate but if there were fifty how close do you think your estimate might be? In the first case your estimate would have probably been perfect while in the second case you are unlikely to get it absolutely correct. What is the cut off number, between five and fifty where your estimate starts to become less accurate?

There is a sheep counting activity here on the Transum website. Try your skills and work to improve them. What strategies could you use?

Student Activity

Have you ever tried herding sheep? Not easy is it? The online herding sheep activity is much easier than real life herding and has proved to be a great introduction to loci.

Student Activity

Here is a sheepish mathematical birthday card which can be downloaded and printed.

Student Activity

Finally, for the more advanced, there's a sheep-themed exam style question for you to try.

Student Activity


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