An interesting word problem was recently posted at the SingaporeMath Yahoo group. The original poster wrote for help solving it without algebra and mentioned that it was from the Primary 4 books. This seems a little advanced compared to the problems in the text and workbooks. I believe the problem could be from the Challenging Word problems series, which provides answers only.

There are 285 teachers and students in the hall. 5/6 of the students and 1/3 of the teachers went out of the hall. There is an equal number of students and teachers left in the hall. How many teachers were there in the hall at first?

If 5/6 of the students and 1/3 of the teachers went out, there would be 1/6 of the students and 2/3 of the teachers left in the hall.

Begin with the end result:

2/3 of the amount of teachers is equal to 1/6 of the amount of students. For every unit of students, there are 2 units of teachers.

Then let’s work back to how many there were at first:

There are 285 people divided into 15 units.

285 ÷ 15 = 19 people per unit.

There were 3 units of 19, or 57 teachers in the hall at first.

Then, to check out work, let’s find out how many students there were at first.

12 units x 19 people in each = 128 students

128 students + 57 teachers = 285 teachers and students were in the hall at first.