Tag Archives: algebra

The Fake Bar Model Method

Recently, I was peeping at some postings on the Facebook PSLE Parents group, and I came across the following question:

Philip had 6 times as many stickers as Rick. After Philip had given 75 stickers to Rick, he had thrice as many stickers as Rick. How many stickers did they have altogether?

Here are two solutions that caught my attention to the above primary or grade 6 word problem.

Solution contributed by Izam Marwasi
Solution by Izam Marwasi
Solution by Jenny Tan
Solution by Jenny Tan

Pseudo-Bar Model Method?

Arguably, the solution by the first problem solver offered to parents looks algebraic, to say the least. Some of you may point out that the first part uses the “unitary method,” but it’s the second part that uses algebra. Fair, I can accept this argument.

Since formal algebra, in particular the solving of algebraic equations, isn’t taught in primary or grade six, did the contributor “mistake” his solution for some form of bar model solution, although no diagram was provided? It’s not uncommon to see a number of pseudo-bar model solutions on social media or on the Websites of tuition centers, when in fact, they are algebraic, with or without any model drawings.

Many parents, secondary school teachers, or tutors, who aren’t versed with the bar model method, subconsciously use the algebraic method, with a bar model, which on closer look, reveals that the mental processes are indeed algebraic. No doubt this would create confusion in the young minds, who haven’t been exposed to formal algebra.

Does the Second Solution Pay Lip Service to Design Thinking?

What do you make of the second solution? Did you get it on first reading? Do you think an average grade five or six student would understand the logic behind the model drawing? From a pedagogical standpoint, the second solution is anything but algebraic. Although it makes use of the bar model method, I wonder what proportion of parents and their children could grasp the workings, without some frustration or struggle.

One common valid complaint by both parents and teachers is that in most assessment (or supplementary) math books that promote bar modeling, even with worked-out solutions to these oft-brain-unfriendly word problems, they’re often clueless how the problem solver knew in the first place that the bar model ought to be presented in a certain way—it’s almost as if the author knew the answer, then worked backwards to construct the model.

Indeed, as math educators, in particular, math writers, we haven’t done a good job in this area in trying to make explicit the mental processes involved in constructing the model drawings. Failure to make sense of the bar models has created more anxiety and fear in the minds of many otherwise above-average math students and their oft-kiasu parents.

Poor Presentation Isn’t an Option

Like in advanced mathematics, the poor excuse is that we shouldn’t be doing math like we’re writing essays! No one is asking the problem solver or math writer to write essays or long-winded explanations. We’re only asking them to make their logic clear: a good presentation forces them to make their thinking clearer to others, and that would help them to avoid ambiguity. Pedantry and ambiguity, no; clarity and simplicity, yes!

Clear Writing Is Clear Thinking

It’s hard work to write well, or to present one’s solution unambiguously. But that’s no excuse that we can afford to be a poor writer, and not a good thinker. As math educators or contributors, we’ve an obligation to our readers to make our presentation as clear as possible. It’s not enough to present a half-baked solution, on the basis that the emphasis in solving a math problem is to get the correct answer, and not waste the time to write grammatically correct sentences or explanations.

I Am Not a Textbook Math Author, Why Bother to Be Precise?

As teachers, we dread about grading students’ ill-written solutions, because most of us don’t want to give them a zero for an incorrect answer. However, if we’re convinced based on their argument that they do know what they’re doing, or show mathematical understanding or maturity of the concepts being tested, then we’d only minus a few marks for careless computation.

Poorly constructed or ill-presented arguments, mathematical or otherwise, don’t make us look professional. Articulating the thinking processes of our logical arguments helps us to develop our intellectual maturity; and last but not least, it makes us become a better thinker—and a better writer, too.

© Yan Kow Cheong, November 1, 2017.

The Singapore Excess-and-Shortage Problem

In Singapore, in grades four and five, there is one type of word problems that seldom fail to appear in most local problem-solving math books and school test papers, but almost inexistent in local textbooks and workbooks. This is another proof that most Singapore math textbooks ill-prepare local students to tackle non-routine questions, which are often used to filter the nerd from the herd, or at least stream the “better students” into the A-band classes.

Here are two examples of these “excess-and-shortage word problems.”

Some oranges are to be shared among a group of children. If each child gets 3 oranges, there will be 2 oranges left. If each child gets 4 oranges, there will be a shortage of 2 oranges. How many children are there in the group?

A math book costs $9 and a science book costs $7. If Steve spends all his money in the science books, he still has $6 left. However, if he buys the same number of math books, he needs another $8 more.
(a) How many books is Steve buying?
(b) How much money does he have?

A Numerical Recipe

Depicted below is a page from a grade 3/4 olympiad math book. It seems that the author preferred to give a quick-and-easy numerical recipe to solving these types of excess-and-shortage problems—it’s probably more convenient and less time-consuming to do so than to give a didactic exposition how one could logically or intuitively solve these questions with insight.

A page from Terry Chew’s “Maths Olympiad” (2007).

Strictly speaking, it’s incorrect to categorize these questions under the main heading of “Excess-and-Shortage Problems,” because it’s not uncommon to have situations, when the conditions may involve two cases of shortage, or two instances of excess.

In other words, these incorrectly called “excess-and-shortage” questions are made up of three types:
・Both conditions lead to an excess.
・Both conditions lead to a lack or shortage.
・One condition leads to an excess, the other to a shortage.

One Problem, Three [Non-Algebraic] Methods of Solution

Let’s consider one of these excess-and-shortage word problems, looking at how it would normally be solved by elementary math students, who have no training in formal algebra.

Jerry bought some candies for his students. If he gave each student 3 candies, he would have 16 candies left. If he gave each student 5 candies, he would be short of 6 candies.
(a) How many students are there?
(b) How many candies did Jerry buy?

If the above question were posed as a grade 7 math problem in Singapore, most students would solve it by algebra. However, in lower grades, a model (or intuitive) method is often presented. A survey of Singapore math assessment titles and test papers reveals that there are no fewer than half a dozen problem-solving strategies currently being used by teachers, tutors, and parents. Let’s look at three common methods of solution.

Method 1


Difference in the number of candies = 5 – 3 = 2

The 16 extra candies are distributed among 16 ÷ 2 = 8 students, and the needed 6 candies among another 6 ÷ 2 = 3 students.

Total number of students = 8 + 3 = 11

(a) There are 11 students.

(b) Number of candies = 3 × 11 + 16 = 49 or  5 × 11 –  6 = 49

Jerry bought 49 candies.

Method 2

Let 1 unit represent the number of students.


Since the number of candies remains the same in both cases, we have

3 units + 16  = 5 units – 6


From the model,
2 units = 16 + 6 = 22
1 unit = 22 ÷ 2 = 11
3 units + 16 = 3 × 11 + 16 = 49

(a) There are 11 students.
(b) Jerry bought 49 candies.

Method 2 is similar to the Sakamoto method. Do you see why?

Method 3

The difference in the number of candies is 5 – 3 = 2.


The extra 16 candies and the needed 6 candies give a total of 16 + 6 = 22 candies, which are then distributed, so that all students each received 2 extra candies.

The number of students is 22 ÷ 2 = 11.

The number of candies is 11 × 3 + 16 = 49, or 11 × 5 – 6 = 49.

Similar, Yet Different

Feedback from teachers, tutors, and parents suggests that even above-average students are often confused and challenged by the variety of these so-called shortage-and-excess problems, not including word problems that are set at a contest level. This is one main reason why a formulaic recipe may often do more harm than good in instilling confidence in students’ mathematical problem-solving skills.

Here are two grade 4 examples with a twist:

When a carton of apples were packed into bags of 4, there would be 3 apples left over. When the same number of apples were packed into bags of 6, there would still be 3 apples left over. What could be the least number of apples in the carton? (15)

Rose had some money to buy some plastic files. If she bought 12 files, she would need $8 more. If she bought 9 files, she would be left with $5. How much money did Rose have? ($44)


Exposing students of mixed abilities to various types of these excess-and-shortage word problems, and to different methods of solution, will help them gain confidence in, and sharpen, their problem-solving skills. Moreover, promoting non-algebraic (or intuitive) methods also allows these non-routine questions to be set in lower grades, whereby a diagram, or a model drawing, often lends itself easily to the solution.


Chew, T. (2008). Maths olympiad: Unleash the maths olympian in you — Intermediate (Pr 4 & 5, 10 – 12 years old). Singapore: Singapore Asian Publications.

Chew, T. (2007). Maths olympiad: Unleash the maths olympian in you — Beginner (Pr 3 & 4, 9 – 10 years old). Singapore: Singapore Asian Publications.

Yan, K. C. (2011). Primary mathematics challenging word problems. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Education.

© Singapore Math, October 27, 2013.

See Worked Example 2 on page 8; try questions 7-8 on page 12.

Hungry ghosts don’t do Singapore math

In Singapore, every year around this time, folks who believe in hungry ghosts celebrate the one-month-long “Hungry Ghost Festival” (also known as the “Seventh Month”). The Seventh Month is like an Asian equivalent of Halloween, extended to one month—just spookier.

If you think that these spiritual vagabonds encircling the island are mere fictions or imaginations of some superstitious or irrational local folks who have put their blind faith in them, you’re in for a shock. These evil spirits can drive the hell out of ghosts agnostics, including those who deny the existence of such spiritual beings.


Hell money superstitious [or innumerate] folks can buy for a few bucks to pacify the “hungry ghosts.”

During the fearful Seventh Month, devotees would put on hold major life decisions, be it about getting married, purchasing a house, or signing a business deal. If you belong to the rational type, there’s no better time in Singapore to tie the knot (albeit there’s no guarantee that all your guests would show up on your D-Day); in fact, you can get the best deal of the year if your wedding day also happens to fall on a Friday 13—an “unlucky date” in an “unlucky month.”

Problem solving in the Seventh Month

I have no statistical data of the number of math teachers, who are hardcore Seventh Month disciples, who would play it safe, by going on some “mathematical fast” or diet during this fearful “inaupicious month.” As for the rest of us, let’s not allow fear, irrationality, or superstition to paralyze us from indulging into some creative mathematical problem solving.

Let’s see how the following “ghost” word problem may be solved using the Stack Method, a commonly used problem-solving strategy, slowing gaining popularity among math educators outside Singapore (which has often proved to be as good as, if not better than, the bar method in a number of problem-situations).

During the annual one-month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, a devotee used 1/4 and $45 of the amount in his PayHell account to buy an e-book entitled That Place Called Hades. He then donated 1/3 and $3 of the remaining amount to an on-line mortuary, whose members help to intercede for long-lost wicked souls. In the end, his PayHell account showed that he only had $55 left. How much money did he have at first?

Try solving this, using the Singapore model, or bar, method, before peeking at the quick-and-dirty stack-method solutions below.


From the stack drawing,
2 units = 55 + 13 + 15 + 15 = 98
4 units = 2 × 98 = 196

He had $196 in his PayHell account at first.

Alternatively, we may represent the stack drawing as follows:


From the model drawing,
2 units = 15 + 15 + 13 + 55 = 98
4 units = 2 × 98 = 196

The devotee had $196 in his account at first.

Another way of solving the “ghost question” is depicted below.


From the stack drawing,
6u = 55 + 13 + 15 + 15 = 98
12u = 2 × 98 = 196

He had $196 in his PayHell account at first.

A prayerful exercise for the lost souls

Let me end with a “wicked problem” I initially included in Aha! Math, a recreational math title I wrote for elementary math students. My challenge to you is to solve this rate question, using the Singapore bar method; better still, what about using the stack method? Happy problem solving!


How would you use the model, or bar, method to solve this “wicked problem”?
Yan, K. C. (2006). Aha! math! Singapore: SNP Panpac Education. 
© Yan Kow Cheong, August 28, 2013.


A businessman won this “lucky” urn with a $488,888 bid at a recent Hungry Ghost Festival auction.

Problem Solving Made Difficult


The US edition of a grade 5 Singapore math supplementary title.

Recently, while revising a grade 5 supplementary book I wrote for Marshall Cavendish, I saw that other than the answer, there was no solution or hint provided to the following question.

If Ann gave $2 to Beth, Beth would have twice as much as Ann.
If Beth gave $2 to Ann, they would have the same amount of money.
How much did each person have?

Most grade 7 Singapore math textbooks and assessment books would normally carry a few of these typical word problems, whereby students are expected to use an algebraic method to solve them. For instance, using algebra, students would form two linear equations in x and y, before solving them by the elimination, or substitution, method. A pretty standard application of solving a pair of simultaneous linear equations, by an analytic method.

However, it’s not uncommon to see these types of word problems appearing in lower-grade supplementary titles, whereby students could solve them, using the Singapore model, or bar, method; and the Sakamoto method. In other words, these grade 7 and 8 questions could be solved by grade 5 and 6 students, using a non-algebraic method.

Algebra versus Model Drawing

Conceptually speaking, I think a grade 6 or 7 student who can solve the above word problem, using a model drawing, appears to exhibit a higher level of mathematical maturity than one who simply uses two variables to represent the unknowns, before forming two simultaneous linear equations to solve them. Of course, because the numbers in this question are relatively small, it’s not surprising to catch a number of average students relying on the trial-and-error method to find the answer.

Try to solve the question, using both algebra and a model; then compare the two methods of solution. Which one do you think demands a deeper or higher level of reasoning or thinking skills?

Depicted below is a model drawing of the above grade 5 word problem.


From the model drawing,

1 unit = 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8
1 unit + 2 = 10
1 unit + 6 = 14

Ann had $10.
Beth had $14.

Generalizing the Problem

A minor change in the question, by altering the “number of times” Beth would have as much money as Ann, reveals an interesting pattern: the model drawing remains unchanged, except for the varying number of units that represent the same quantity.Here are two modified versions of the original grade 5 question.

If Ann gave $2 to Beth, Beth would have three times as much as Ann.

If Beth gave $2 to Ann, they would have the same amount of money.
How much did each person have?

Answer: Ann–$6; Beth–$10.

If Ann gave $2 to Beth, Beth would have five times as much as Ann.
If Beth gave $2 to Ann, they would have the same amount of money.
How much did each person have?

Answer: Ann–$4; Beth–$8.

From Problem Solving to Problem Posing

The two modified questions could serve as good practice for students to become skilled in model drawing, and to help them deduce numerical relationships confidently from them. Besides, they provide a good opportunity to challenge students to pose similar questions, by altering the “number of times” Beth would have as much money as Ann. Which numerical values would work, and what ones wouldn’t, in order for the model drawing to make sense, or for the question to remain solvable?


Let me end, by tickling you with another grade 5 question, similar to the previous three word problems.

If Ann gave $2 to Beth, Beth would have three times as much as Ann.
If Beth gave $2 to Ann, they would have twice as much money as Beth.
How much did each person have?

Answer: Ann–$4.40; Beth–$5.20.

How do you still use the model method to solve this slightly modified ratio question? Test it on your better students or colleagues! It’s slightly harder, because any obvious result isn’t easily deduced from the model drawing, as compared to the ones posed earlier on. Besides, unlike the three previous word problems whose answers are integers, this last problem has a decimal answer—it just doesn’t lend itself well to the guess-and-check strategy.

Share with us how your students or colleagues fare on this last question. Remember: No algebra allowed!

© Yan Kow Cheong, July 12, 2013.

Can Math Be Sexy?

One thing is almost certain is that if Danica McKellar, actress and mathematician-turned-math-author, were to write a book on Singapore math, my bet is that it would unlikely be approved by the Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE), although few would deny that her title would probably be a terrific draw among local students, even in conservative or puritan Singapore—it may even end up being the first math book on a Singapore bestseller’s list.

Going by her math titles (Kiss my mathMath doesn’t sulk; and Hot algebra exposed!), which are primarily targeted at an American or liberal audience, should the TV personality be tempted to write a math book for a local audience, it would be a miracle if her manuscript got pass the first round of Singapore’s MOE’s censorship board—not before making most MOE curriculum specialists flush of embarrassment.


Would you buy this math title for your son or daughter?

Infidel Math

Indeed, the Taliban and the Ayatollahs wouldn’t approve Danica McKellar’s irreverent titles, not to say, her irreligious style of writing, but what about “moderate” nations like Singapore, which unspokenly or secretly longs to be portrayed as a conservative society with “high moral standards”? McKellar’s math books are anything but boring! In fact, she thinks that math can be easy, relevant, and even glamorous. By adding a little glamour and humor to the teaching of mathematics, it looks like the math advocate has, to a large extent, demonstrated that math can actually be accessible to young girls—and young boys, too!


A Math Role Model for Girls (and Boys)

In math education circles, it’s not surprising that Danica McKellar is regarded by many [open-minded] parents and math educators as a terrific role model [for girls and young women]. She teaches the value of confidence that comes from feeling [math-]smart. Her supporters think that her books should be required reading for every math-anxious school girl! The message seems to be that physical beauty and quantitative literacy need’t be mutually exclusive.


Would you give away this irreverent guide about pre-algebra to your neighbor’s son?

From Boyfriend to Babysitting

A random look at some chapters of Math Doesn’t Sulk needs no explanation why teenage girls wouldn’t want to give math a serious try, or a second chance, especially if they want to appear smart and beautiful, to their boyfriends. Would you put down a math title with these chapter headings?


Chapter 1: How to Make a Killing on eBay (Prime Numbers and Prime Factorization)

Chapter 2: Do You Still Have a Crush on Him? (Finding the Greatest Common Factor)

Chapter 7: Is Your Sister Trying to Cheat You Out of Your Fair Share? (Comparing Fractions)

Chapter 11: Why Calculators Would Make Terrible Boyfriends (Converting Fractions and Mixed Numbers to Decimals)

Chapter 12: How to Entertain Yourself while Babysitting a Devil Child (Converting Decimals to Fractions) 

Math Doesn’t Sulk also comes with a math horoscope, math personality quizzes, and real-life testimonials. What else more can one expect from a math book? In fact, Danica herself exemplifies her own life from being a terrified middle-school math student to a confident actress, and more.


X-rated algebra with a dose of irreverence and humor

Girls get curves: Geometry takes shape

I’m currently looking at a copy of McKellar’s latest publication, Girls get curves; personally, I think it’s the most useful of all her publications so far, as it covers a number of middle- and high-school topics, such as congruency, similarity, and proofs, which are relevant to my teaching and writing. My wild guess is that her next title would be one on Calculus and Trigonometry!

Learn some proofs with Danica as your personal tutor and coach!

Don’t judge a book by its irreverent title!

Suspend your judgement for a while, even if McKellar’s irreverent titles make you feel a bit squeamish or uneasy. Who knows? You may end up learning a thing or two about some long-forgotten, or decades-old avoided, math.


Personally, the style of writing of these pop math books is enough to arouse my interest, leave aside the math, which somewhat lacks rigor, as compared to the standard expected of Singapore math students at the same grades. For example, in Singapore,  geometric proof and trigonometry are formally covered at grade 9 or 10. However, McKellar’s  informal and conversational writing style could help us loosen our often-stiff mathematics writing, which has traditionally plagued most Singapore-published boring textbooks, as they go through the “rigorous” (or tedious?) process of MOE’s standards of quality and morality.


Ho, S. T., Khor, N. H. & Yan, K. C. (2013). Additional Maths 360. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Education.

McKellar, D. (2012). Girls get curves: Geometry takes shape. New York: Hudson Street Press.

McKellar, D. (2011). Hot X: Algebra exposed! New York: Plume.

McKellar, D. (2008). Kiss my math: Showing pre-algebra who’s boss. New York: Hudson Street Press.

McKelkar, D. (2007). Math doesn’t suck: How to survive middle school math without losing your mind or breaking a nail. New York: Plume.

For alignment with state and NCTM math standards, visit www.mathdoesntsuck.com/standards

© Yan Kow Cheong, April 20, 2013.

The Dolls Problem à la Singapour

Following a request from a Linkedln friend to provide a solution that makes use of the Singapore model method to the question below—I couldn’t trace the origin of this word problem—here’s a quick-and-dirty sketch of a five-model-drawing solution.

Jazmine buys and sells antique dolls on the Internet. Yesterday, she focused on dolls from the Civil War period. She began the day by selling one-fourth of her dolls from that period. Then she sold six more. Just before lunch she sold one-fourth of the remaining Civil War dolls. After lunch, she bought some Civil War dolls, increasing her collection by one-sixth. Then she bought some more, doubling her collection. Just before she quit for the day, she sold two thirds of her Civil War dolls. After all that, she had fourteen of these dolls left. How many dolls did Jazmine have before she began trading yesterday?

It wouldn’t be surprising that this kind of brain-unfriendly word problem, set in a test or exam, might give some un-mathophobic grade five or six students sweaty palms, or goose pimples, if they started feeling clueless after attempting to solve it for some five odd minutes!


A quick-and-dirty solution that makes use of the model method.

Using the “work backwards” strategy repeatedly, the model drawings show that Jazmine had 40 dolls before she began trading yesterday.

If you’re an “algebraic freak,” by all means, use algebra to check your answer—I decided to give the algebraic approach a miss this time round.

Disproportionate parts or units

Notice that I’ve loosely used “units” and “parts” alternately to represent each model drawing. And I’ve also used each unit, or part, in a rather disproportionate manner, as compared to textbooks’ modeled solutions, which generally depict the bars (or rectangles) proportionately, based on their respective numerical values—which is secondary to the reasoning or thinking processes.

The above dolls problem is similar to a question I discussed in an earlier post, except that the present one is slightly harder; otherwise, it adopts the same problem-solving strategies for  its solution.

Sakamoto and Stack Methods

My next task is to check whether the Stack method or the Sakamoto method to the above word problem is conceptually “friendlier” than the model method. Are there intuitive or elegant solutions other than the one that embraces the bar method? Meanwhile, please send us your solution(s) to the dolls problem.

© Yan Kow Cheong, March 27, 2013.

Postscript: Although math was my favorite subject in school, I don’t recall solving questions similar to the above word problem. I doubt if I would be able to solve it when I was in grade five or six. It looks like this present younger generation has been given the shorter end of the mathematical stick—worse, if math happens not to be their cup of tea! It’s no surprise that strangers, young and old, angrily tell me of their negative mathematical experiences in school—how they disliked math (and their math teachers).

Algebra or Model Method

On December 19, 2012, in her Confession from a Homeschool Mom: Singapore Math Stumped Me Today, Monise L. Seward, blogged that her 6th grader woke her up to ask her for help on a word problem in her Singapore Math book. The nonroutine question she shared was the following:

Mrs. Pappas had some apples. She sold 1/3 of the apples plus 5 more on the first day. She sold 1/3 of the remaining apples plus 5 more on the second day. She had 125 apples left in the end. How many apples did Mrs. Pappas have in the beginning?

If you use algebra to solve this problem, it’s unlikely that the working will arouse any excitement; in fact, you may find this method of solution to be somewhat uninteresting or boring. Yes, algebra does religiously solve the problem, but the solution is anything but elegant. Moreover, most average grade five or six students wouldn’t have acquired the maturity to solve it algebraically.

An algebraic check

Besides working backwards to check the answer, after solving the question, using the Singapore model method, I also checked it out by algebra.Looking at the symbolic clutter, I guessed then that even our Singapore grades 7 and 8 average students would likely be challenged to solve this problem by algebraic means.If we stick to working with only one variable, then we may end up with an unappetizing equation such as the following to solve.


A mum’s solution

Without a good working knowledge with the Singapore model method, we can expect most teachers and parents (who still remember their school math) to solve the question in a way similar to the one sketched and tweeted by my Pinterest and Twitter friend at PragmaticMom.com, as shown below:

2/3x – 5 = 125

2/3x = 125 + 5

2/3x = 130

x = (130 x 3)/2

x = 195

You add the 5 because you have to subtract the 5 apples from the 2/3 calculation because they were added in additionally. Then you do it again …

2/3x – 5 = 195

2/3 x = 195 + 5

2/3 x = 200

x = (200 x 3)/2

x = 300

No algebra, please!

Pretend for a while that algebra is an alien language to you! And you can only use a non-algebraic explanation to communicate your solution to a ten-year-old child! How would you go about doing it? Can you think of some intuitive methods?

After coming across this grade six question via @pragmaticmom, I tweeted a quick-and-dirty solution to the above problem, using the model, or bar, method. Give it a try first, before comparing yours with mine.

Sakamoto math

I also remarked that we could also solve this question by the Sakamoto method, which I assumed most of you in the United States might not be familiar with; so I’ll skip presenting the Japanese method of solution here.

Working backwards

Had the above grade five or six question involved the fraction 1/2 instead of 1/3, then using the “work backwards” strategy, via a flow chart, would have yielded an equally decent method of solution as the model approach.

Mrs. Pappas had some apples. She sold 1/2 of the apples plus 5 more on the first day. She sold 1/2 of the remaining apples plus 5 more on the second day. She had 125 apples left in the end. How many apples did Mrs. Pappas have in the beginning?

See a sketch of a common method of solution below.


Two bonus questions

Let me leave you with two grade 3/4 problems that lend themselves easily to the model method.1. A shop owner sold 2 more iPads than half the number of iPads in his stock. He then sold 2 fewer iPads than half of the remaining iPads. If he was left with 28 iPads, how many iPads did he have in his stock in the beginning?

2. Sarah used $8 to buy a book. She then used half of the remaining money to buy a bag. Lastly, she spent $1 more than half of what she had left on a meal. In the end, she had only $5 left. How much money had Sarah at first?
Answers: 1. 108 iPads; 2. $32

© Yan Kow Cheong, March 13, 2013.