Rabbits and Chickens

Rabbit Chicken

A farmer has some rabbits and chickens.
Altogether they have 50 heads and 142 feet.
How many rabbits and chickens are there?

A Mathematics Lesson Starter Of The Day


Topics: Starter | Algebra | Problem Solving | Simultaneous Equations

  • L. Mangham, Hylands School, UK
  • Good timing! Just the starter I needed for my simultaneous equation topic. Thanks.
  • The Best Maths Class Ever 7cd/M2, King Alfred's College, Oxfordshire
  • We all tried our best to find the answer by guessing. But our teacher showed us how to use simultaneous equations to get the answer quickly. A tough question for a year 7 class.
  • M T, 8b/Ma1 Harris Academy Purley
  • My class was just introduced to constructing and solving linear equations at the time, and I constructed a linear equation to find a solution for this starter. I let the number of rabbits be represented by x. Then 4x + 2(total heads-x)= total number of legs.
  • Simbarashe Mukumbira, Mazowe High School
  • This maths stater was just the thing I wanted before I wrote my algebra test.
  • Joan Morgan, All Saints Academy Plymouth
  • Excellent starter improves students thinking skills !!- Thank you.
  • Transum,
  • There are so many ways pupils could engage with this problem and possibly the most basic strategy could be one of trial and improvement. Start of by proposing that there are ten rabbits. How many chickens must there be if we know the total number of heads? What is the total number of legs if this is the case? Is that more or less than the actual number of legs? How might we change our rabbit number guess to increase or decrease the number of legs? (Increasing the number of rabbits will decrease the number of chickens and as rabbits have more legs than chickens the total number of legs will go up).
    Alternatively pupils might be at the stage where they could use a spreadsheet to quickly create columns of possible rabbit and chicken numbers with another column showing the number of legs.
    Some pupils may have learned the basics of JavaScript and could write a looping program to find the solution.
    Other pupils may need practice using their graphic display calculator to solve this problem.
    Having said all of that, there is no denying this this is a classic simultaneous equations problem that can be solved in a number of different ways.
  • T.O. William-west, Premier Intl Sch., Abuja, Nigeria
  • This starter is very helpful. In fact, it is intriguing enough to direct students attention and interest to the lesson. Well done.

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This starter has scored a mean of 3.4 out of 5 based on 206 votes.

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Note to teacher: Doing this activity once with a class helps students develop strategies. It is only when they do this activity a second time that they will have the opportunity to practise those strategies. That is when the learning is consolidated. Click the button above to regenerate another version of this starter from random numbers.


Extension question: How many rabbits and chickens are in a field if the number of legs is three times the number of heads?

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