The Secret of the Sweets (Sweet Distribution Problem)

Mrs Smith has some sweets to distribute to her students. If she gives each student 3 sweets, she will be left with 24 extra sweets. If she gives each student 5 sweets, she will be short of 42 sweets.

How many sweets does Mrs Smith have?

This is part of a series on Homeschool Math Challenging Puzzles, suitable for Grades 2-4. (Of course, students of other grades are also welcome to try them out.) The questions are suitable for:

  • Homeschooling for gifted kids
  • Preparation for GEP (Gifted Education Programme) screening and selection tests
  • Preparation for Math Olympiad
  • Puzzles for kids interested in math but find school work too easy.


This is quite a tricky problem for Grade 2-4 students. The main problem is that the number of sweets, as well as the number of students is unknown! Many students will not know how to even start solving such questions.

We can reason as follows:

From 3 sweets each to 5 sweets each is an increase of 5-3=2 sweets each.

From having 24 extra sweets to being short of 42 sweets is a difference of 24+42=66 sweets.

Hence, to cause the above difference, there must be a total of 66/2=33 students!

Then, we can conclude:

33 students x 3 sweets each = 99 sweets

99+24=123 sweets altogether.

Answer: 123 sweets

We can also check our answer using another method:

33 students x 5 sweets each = 165 sweets

165-42=123 sweets.


Author: mathtuition88

Math and Education Blog

2 thoughts on “The Secret of the Sweets (Sweet Distribution Problem)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: