Parents Are Stumped By THIS First Grade Math Problem. Can You Solve It?

So if you imagine math homework to be the multiplication tables from back in the day, think again.

Proponents of the program say that presenting math this way helps students understand the concepts better and in a more in-depth way than rote memorization, and that the methods make math more accessible for different styles of learning.

Opponents, though, say it’s too convoluted and abstract, especially for younger students, and does more to confuse than to educate.

Others point out that a national standard doesn’t help with cultural issues in different schools, and some have even complained about its lack of computer science material — a subject that kids today need to learn.

But more immediately, many parents are finding that because it doesn’t mesh with how they were taught math, they can no longer help their kids with math homework! Check out some of the examples below. Can you solve them? If you can’t, don’t worry. We’ll show you how!

Problem #1: How Many Marbles?kids

This problem goes like this:

  • Grace has 10 fewer marbles than Paul.
  • Grace has 5 more marbles than Meghan.
  • Paul gives 4 marbles to Meghan.
  • Grace gives another 6 marbles to Meghan.
  • Meghan now has 13 marbles.

How many marbles did everyone start out with?

Okay, so this one seems a little daunting. You might be trying to start at the beginning and work down, but that’s where the trick to this problem is… Just because the information is in a certain order doesn’t mean that it’s the order you solve it in.


The trick here is starting with the number you definitely know. In this case, it’s that Meghan has 13 marbles.

The rest of the information is all “more than” or “less than” statements, but no actual numbers. So if we start with the 13 and work backwards, the rest fall into place.


Before she had 13 marbles, Grace gave her 6 more. Before that, Paul gave her 4. By working backwards from 13, and subtracting 6 and then 4, we end up with 3, the number of marbles Meghan started with.


Now we know that Meghan had 3 marbles, Grace had 5 more than she did, and Paul had 10 more than Grace.

We add 5 to Meghan’s original amount of marbles, and 10 to Grace’s original amount, and get 8 and 18. The solution, then, is that Meghan had 3 marbles, Grace had 8 marbles, and Paul had 18 marbles.

The problem is set up in such a way to force students to think about how to arrange out-of-order data into something they can use.

It’s a real-world skill, but some parents think it’s too complex for young children. And in case you were wondering, this problem was designed for first-graders.

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