Can You Solve These 5 Tricky Problems Meant For Grade Schoolers?

Everyone has their own talents. Obviously, I’m a writer. Math, on the other hand, has never been my speciality. I knew from early on that not even the greatest calculator on the planet could get me to either enjoy or be great at math. And that’s OK, because I’m well past my grade-school years and am doing just fine without remembering how to divide fractions!

But for those of you who liked math back in school and want to take a walk down memory lane, check out these so-called “grade-school level” math problems that have recently stumped the internet (as well as these poor children’s parents!).

Good luck!

1. Fill In The Missing Numbers.

The puzzle below, comprised of five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further instructions than “Study the number pattern” and “Fill in the missing numbers.” Can you crack it?

Answer: One possible answer: 2, 2, 1, 1 (clockwise).

Explanation: The figure in the middle circle (three) equals the number of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12).

2. Fill In The Gaps With Digits From 1 To 9

For this one, you need to fill in the gaps with digits from one to nine so that the equation makes sense following the order of operations: multiply first, then divide, add and, finally, subtract.


Answer: Eventually, it turns out (by order of the blank spaces) that a = 3, b = 2, c = 1, d = 5, e = 4, f = 7, g = 9, h = 8 and i = 6.

Explanation: Rewrite the snake as an equation:

a + (13b/c) + d + 12e – f – 11 + (gh/i)– 10 = 66

We are trying to find a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h and i, which we know are some combination of the digits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Simplify the equation to:

a + (13b/c) + d + 12e – f +(gh/i) = 66 + 11 + 10 = 87


a + d – f + (13b/c) + 12e +(gh/i) = 87

The complete solution can be found here.

According to the VN Express, this was a problem for third graders in the town of Bao Loc, Vietnam. Eight-year-olds figured it out!

3. How Many Marbles?

This problem goes like this:

  • Grace has 10 fewer marbles than Paul.
  • Grace has 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?

marbles photo
Getty Images | Jordan Mansfield

Answer: Meghan had 3 marbles, Grace had 8 marbles, and Paul had 18 marbles.

Explanation: 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 falls into place. Before she had 13 marbles, Grace gave her 6. Before that, Paul gave her 4. By working backward from 13, and subtracting six 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.

4. The Ball And The Bat

The setup for this one is simple: A baseball bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

baseball bat ball photo
Getty Images | Rob Foldy

Was your answer 10 cents? That would be wrong!

Answer: The ball costs 5 cents.

Explanation: When you read the math problem, you probably saw that the bat and the ball cost $1.10 in total and when you processed the new information that the bat is $1 more than the ball, your brain jumped to the conclusion that the ball was 10 cents, without actually doing the math.

But when you actually do the math, the difference between $1 and 10 cents is 90 cents, not $1. If you take a moment to actually do the math, the only way for the bat to be $1 more than the ball AND the total cost to equal $1.10 is for the baseball bat to cost $1.05 and the ball to cost 5 cents.

5. Which Is The Odd One Out?

This seemingly straightforward problem was handed out as part of an exam for children at an elementary school in Jiangsu Province, China. The question is broken up into three rows. Each one shows drawings of people and animals. The students are asked which is the odd one out in each row. One row, in particular, had adults in China fooled.


Answer: 1 = Dog; 2 = Fish; 3 = Chicken

Explanation: The answer to number one is the dog because it’s the only animal among a line of humans. The answer to number two is the fish because the others are land animals. But number three was the one that stumped people on Chinese social media. But the answer is the chicken, according to People’s Daily Online. Why? Because it’s the only one with two legs! The other animals in the row have four.