No one’s indifferent to the long-form math word problem, whose opening lines — There are 67 people on a train that’s traveling west at 45 miles an hour… — tend to either thrill us or fill us with cold dread. While we all tumble effortlessly through daily encounters with simple arithmetic, math riddles and word problems tend to stop us in our tracks: They’re a thorny, delightful combination of the abstract and the real-world — which is why they’re perfect for kids.
To solve a math riddle, kids must convert just a few sentences about a real-life scenario into the right combination of mathematical equations, using logic, creative-problem solving and common sense to crack the code. Math riddles — especially the harder ones — offer a gratifying challenge to kids (and, let’s be frank, adults).
The great news is that shrouding a difficult equation behind a fun and engaging math riddle is the best way to get your kid interested in math well before they encounter the great divide of the quadratic formula in eighth grade. These tricky math riddles keep kids entertained while quietly sharpening their logic and math skills. Odds are, you’ll learn something, too.
30 Challenging Math Riddles and Word Problems
Riddle: At the time of shipping, Tom can place 10 small boxes or 8 large boxes into a carton. A total of 96 boxes were sent in one shipment. The number of small boxes was less than large boxes. What is the total number of cartons he shipped?
Answer: 11 cartons
4 small boxes (410 = 40 boxes) 7 large boxes (78 = 56 boxes)
So 96 boxes and 11 total cartons
Riddle: When Miguel was 6 years old, his little sister, Leila, was half is age. If Miguel is 40 years old today, how old is Leila?
Answer: She is 37 years old.
Riddle: You are given 3 positive numbers. You can add these numbers and multiply them together. The result you get will be the same. Which are the numbers?
Answer: 1, 2, and 3
Riddle: What can you put between a 7 and an 8 so that the result is greater than a seven, but less than an eight?
Answer: A decimal. 7.8 is greater than 7, but less than 8
Riddle: Tom was asked to paint the numbers outside 100 apartments which means he will have to paint numbers 1 through 100. Can you figure out the number of times he will have to paint the number 8?
Answer: 20 times (8, 18, 28, 38, 48, 58, 68, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 98)
Riddle: What’s the maximum number of times you can subtract number 5 from 25?
Answer: Only once. This is because when you subtract 5 for the first time, it becomes number 20, and then 15, and so on.
Riddle: Which weighs more 16 ounces of soda or a pound of solid gold?
Answer: Neither. They both weigh the same!
Riddle: Leon works at the aquarium. When he tries to put each turtle in its own tank, he has one turtle too many. But if he puts two turtles per tank, he has on tank too many. How many turtles and how many tanks does Leon have?
Answer: He has 3 tanks and 4 turtles.
Riddle: The total cost of a pair of shoes and a hoodie is $150. The hoodie costs $100 more than the pair of shoes does. How much does each item cost?
Answer: The hoodie costs $125, the shoes costs $25
Riddle: If there are 4 apples and you take away 3, how many do you have?
Answer: You took 3 apples so obviously you have 3!
Riddle: A 300 ft. train is traveling 300 ft. per minute must travel through a 300 ft. long tunnel. How long will it take the train to travel through the tunnel?
Answer: Two minutes. It takes the front of the train one minute and the rest of the train will take two minutes to clear the tunnel.
Riddle: A cellphone and a phone case cost $110 in total. The cell phone costs $100 more than the phone case. How much was the cellphone?
Answer: $105 (not $110)
Riddle: Robert and David played several golf matches against each other in a week. They played for a pizza at each match, but no pizzas were purchased until the end of the week. If at any time Robert and David had the same number of wins, those pizzas were canceled. Robert won four matches (but no pizzas), and David won three pizzas. How many rounds of golf were played?
Explanation: David won 7 matches, 4 to cancel out Robert’s 4 wins, and 3 more to win the pizzas.
Riddle: I am a three-digit number. My second digit is 4 times bigger than the third digit. My first digit is 3 less than my second digit. Who am I?
Riddle: I add five to nine, and get two. The answer is correct, but how?
Answer: When it is 9am, add 5 hours to it and you will get to 2 pm.
Riddle: There are 100 pairs of dogs in a zoo; pairs of babies are born for every dog. Unfortunately, 23 of the dogs have not survived. How many dogs would be left in total?
Answer: 977 dogs
Explanation: 100 x 2 = 200; 200 +800 = 1000; 1000-23 = 977
Riddle: A group of students were standing in the blazing sun facing due west on a march past event. The leader shouted at them: Right turn! About turn! Left turn! At the end of these commands, in which direction is the students facing now?
Explanation: They will turn 90 degrees in a right turn and they turn 180 degrees in an about-turn, and finally they turn 90 degrees in a left-turn. Therefore, the students are now facing east.
Riddle: A half is a third of it. What is it?
Answer: 1 1/2.
Riddle: You have two U.S coins whose total value is $0.30. One of them is not a nickel. What are the two coins?
Answer: One is a quarter and one is a nickel.
Riddle: Eggs are $0.12 a dozen. How many eggs can you get for a dollar?
Answer: 100 eggs, at a penny each.
Riddle: A duck was given $9, a spider was given $36, a bee was given $27. Based on this information, how much money would be given to a cat?
Answer: $18 ($4.50 per leg)
Riddle: “How much is this bag of potatoes?” asked the man. “32 pounds divided by half of its own weight,” said the grocer. How much did the potatoes weigh?
Answer: 8 lbs.
Riddle: I am a three-digit number. My tens digit is six more than my ones digit. My hundreds digit is eight less than my tens digit. What number am I?
Riddle: A man is twice as old as his little sister. He is also half as old as his dad. Over a period of 50 years, the age of his sister will become half of their dad’s age. What is the age of the man now?
Answer: 50 years old.
Riddle: How can you add eight 4s together so that the total adds up to 500?
Answer: 444 + 44 + 4 + 4 + 4= 500
Riddle: If seven people meet each other and each shake hands only once with each of the others, how many handshakes will there have been?
Riddle: If four men can build four tables in four hours, how many tables can eight men build in eight hours?
Answer: 16 tables
Riddle: When Lisa was 6 years old, her sister Lucy was half her age. If Lucy is 40 years old today, how old is Lucy?
Explanation: Lucy is 3 years younger than Lisa.
Riddle: A little boy goes shopping and purchases 12 tomatoes. On the way home, all but 9 get mushed and ruined. How many tomatoes are left in good condition?