A mum has pleaded for help with her seven year-old's maths homework.

She was stumped by a question given to her child by a maths teacher.

“Is the answer to a) & b) the same or am I missing something?!”

The BirminghamMail reported the question asked: "Karla says: 'I have three hundreds counters, 17 tens counters and 16 ones counters.

a) Can she make two equal three-digit numbers? If so, draw the counters to show them.

b) Can she make two equal three-digit numbers if she had to use all her counters? If so, draw the counters to show them.”

One replied: “I have a PhD in maths, and I have no idea what this question is asking. Unless there’s a diagram to go with it, or more explanation somewhere else.”

And a second agreed, taking to Facebook to moan: "I'm lost."

One replied: “I have a PhD in maths, and I have no idea what this question is asking. Unless there’s a diagram to go with it, or more explanation somewhere else.”

And a second agreed, taking to Facebook to moan: "I'm lost."

"Who is this aimed at?" asked another baffled parent on the site.

The post from Teresa racked up dozens of responses and replies – and nobody seemed able to help her.

The solution

Fiona Goddard, Senior Education Consultant at Maths-Whizz, got out her counters to unpick the puzzler.

She points out that 3 hundreds counters, 17 tens counters and 16 ones counters look like this.

Karla's counters make a total of 486.

We can see this by adding them up:

3 x 100 = 300

17 x 10 = 170

To answer A there are many solutions as there are many different three-digit answers between 100 and 243 Karla can create with equal counters.

Fiona points out that 172 is one of them as not all the counters need to be used. And that's the key!

To answer B , it is 243.

From here, you can divide the total of 486 by 2 to get 243. Fiona does that by making two equal groups.

Group 1: Two hundred counters, four ten counters and three one counters.

Group 2: One hundred counter, 13 ten counters, and 13 one counters.

As Fiona modestly puts it: "I hope that helps." It certainly does!