I have a 2nd-grader and I am trying to help him with his math work but I think I might be making things a lot more complicated than they need to be. The question asks:

Meg needs _ books to have as many as Kate.

Now I think instead of books, it should have said more books, being that Kate has more books than Meg. Does the word "more" give this sentence a different meaning or am I over-thinking this question?

  • There is another 'then' that needs to be changed to 'than'. I tried editing but it did not go through for being less than six characters. – user32480 Feb 3 '13 at 6:05
  • Could be a trick question, like this one: Q: "A farmer had 15 sheep, and all but 8 died. How many are left?" A: "The 8 sheep that were left." Many people would say "7". – user21497 Feb 3 '13 at 8:53
  • Did the edit remove the numbers, making the question senseless? Or did the answerers make up some numbers? – GEdgar Feb 3 '13 at 14:32

You are facing the difficulty posed by the fact that the writers of mathematics exercises claim to value precision but often do not demonstrate it in their own writing.

It is true that if Meg has 6 books and Kate has 3, then Kate needs 3 more books to have as many as Meg. It is equally true that many mathematics teachers will omit the word "more" (often with the excuse that extra words just confuse the issue!).

So explain that while "how many more" is the strictly correct expression, your child needs to recognise that it will often be presented as "how many".

By the way, you may be sure that very few teachers appreciate (or even recognise) the insight that lies behind the answer that "If Meg has 6 books, then Kate needs 6 books to have a many as Meg."


On the one hand, yes, more books is technically the better phrasing, otherwise you could argue that if Kate has 6 books, then then answer is "6" regardless of how many books Meg currently has; she needs to have (a total of) 6 to have as many as Kate.

On the other hand, as a second-grade math problem, the intention is clearly that it is a simple addition/subtraction, and you don't need to try to over-parse what it wants. If Kate has 6 and Meg has 2, then the answer is 4.

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