In the Math Fundamentals problem Frog Farming, the goal is to make at least four different rectangular pens, each of which uses 36 meters of fence. Many students thought of this the same way I did, which was to consider half the necessary perimeter as the sum of two adjacent sides.

Rachel B, Seven Bridges Middle School

I know that the problem was finding perimeter. I know first you divide 36 by 2 and get 18. Then you find addends of 18 and they are the length and width. I added 12 plus 6 which equals 18 and 12 times 2 plus 6 times 2 equals 36.

Sarah G, Laurel School

First I decided come up with a length and width for a rectangle that would equal 18 because 18 is half of 36 and you have to multiply that number by two to get the perimeter. I decided on 2 and 16. I checked it by doing 16+16+2+2= 36. One could by length=16, width=2.

Rachel and Sarah and I were thinking about perimeter, in the context of this problem, like this:

Rectangle with Two Adjacent Edges Highlighted

Another way I thought of this was as 2(L + W). Hmm…..

Then I was mentoring a few students in this problem and noticed that they were thinking about the problem differently.

Ethan Z, Lorne Park Public School

I thought of a rectange which has 4 sides and 2 sides are equal and the other 2 sides are equal because Farmer Mead wants a rectangular pen that uses 36m of fencing. First I got the answer by thinking of 2 equal numbers that add up to less than 36. Then, the last 2 equal numbers are the difference of 36 to the first 2 equal numbers. That’s how I got all the numbers of the first question.

Emily G, Laurel School

I used 2 numbers, and doubled 1 number by two (ex. 6×2=12). 36-12 is 24. 24 is an even number that can be split into 2, which is 12 (ex. 24÷2=12.) 24+12 is 36!

Maybe because I had “seen” the problem differently, it took me a few minutes to figure out what these other kids were doing. Then I realized they were “seeing” the problem like this:

Opposite Sides of Rectangles

This seems more like 2L + 2W! These students tended to use more of a Guess and Check strategy to find solutions, whereas kids who used the first method were a little more systematic from the start. But it was fun to me to see these two different methods to what is a pretty simple idea. I like when simple things are done different ways.

I wonder how you “saw” the problem when I first described it. And how did your kids tend to see it?

Some Frog Farming links in case you are interested: