I was going to write this blog post about moving from guess and check to an algebraic solution method, and why you might want to use algebra.

Then I was reading through some of the Guess and Check submissions we got, and thinking, “wow, that looked pretty effortless.” One student, Jack M. from Rosemont School of the Holy Child, pointed out that the solution has to be a multiple of 3 between 20 and 40. If you start your guess and check with some of that reasoning, you know you won’t have to do very many guesses. And if you’re good at adjusting a guess up or down based on your results, you can get the answer pretty quickly. Jack only needed two guesses: he started with the first multiple of 3 above 20, which is 21, and got to 24 on his second guess!

Rashmi R. from West Woods Upper Elementary School got the answer in 5 systematic guesses (he didn’t focus on the multiple of 3 idea, but was still very efficient). He guessed 10 CDs were sold, then 20, then 30, then 25, then 24. Each time he used the data from the previous guess to think about if he needed to increase his guess or decrease to something between the previous two guesses.

Adam S. from Highlands Elementary School may have had a lucky first guess or he may have thought hard about a reasonable starting number… he doesn’t say. Either way, he started with 25 as first guess, realized it was too high, adjusted to 23 for his second guess, realized it was too low, and got to 24 on his third guess. Take a look at his work, below: