Here's an example of such a problem:

Jamie went out to her grandfather's farm. Her grandfather has pigs and chickens on his farm. She noticed that there were a total of 26 heads and 68 feet among them. How many chickens and how many pigs did her grandfather have? |

To solve a problem like this, you make a table. The columns (down) of the table are the things you know and the things you want to find out. Each row (across) of your table is a different guess.

Here is the table for the pigs and chickens problem:

Guess no. |
Number of pigs |
Number of chickens |
Total number of heads |
Total number of feet |
---|---|---|---|---|

You

Let's guess that there were an equal number of pigs and chickens and see what happens:

Guess no. |
Number of chickens |
Number of pigs |
Total number of heads |
Total number of feet |
---|---|---|---|---|

The number of heads is OK, but the number of feet is too

(We only needed 68 feet!) Now, here is the key point in solving this problem:

- If your guess produces a result that is TOO HIGH, then on your next guess you lower the number of pigs (and raise the number of chickens to keep the number of heads the same), because pigs have more feet than chickens.
- If your guess produces a result that is TOO LOW, then on your next guess you raise the number of pigs (and lower the number of chickens).

Let's guess 20 chickens and 6 pigs (this keeps the number of heads at 26).

This produces for our second guess:

Guess no. |
Number of chickens |
Number of pigs |
Total number of heads |
Total number of feet |
---|---|---|---|---|

Well, now the number of feet is too

Let's guess 18 chickens and 8 pigs:

Guess no. |
Number of chickens |
Number of pigs |
Total number of heads |
Total number of feet |
---|---|---|---|---|

So, the key to solving guess-and-check problems is knowing which way to change things when your guess is too high or too low:

- If your guess is too HIGH, you lower the number of things that have MORE legs or whatever you are computing.
- If your guess is too LOW, you raise the number of things that have MORE legs or whatever you are computing.

Use as many rows (across) as you need to solve your problem.

For a little practice, here's a slight change in this problem for you to solve:

Jamie went out to her grandfather's farm. Her grandfather has pigs and chickens on his farm. She noticed that there were a total of 38 heads and 100 feet among them. How many chickens and how many pigs did her grandfather have? |

When you have your answer, click here to see the correct answer. Good luck!