Mary cut off 2/5 of a piece of string. Later, she cut off another 14 m.

Q: Mary cut off 2/5 of a piece of string. Later, she cut off another 14 m. The ratio of the length of string remaining to the total length cut off is 1 : 3. What is the length of the remaining string?
A. 5 m
B. 7 m
C. 10 m
D. 14 m

Answer: C

Oh Mary! This is how I would have solved it, using equations. Let L be the original length of the string, and R be what is remaining once you have cut the string twice. We know that R = (L x 3/5) – 14m, and that ((L x 2/5) +14) /R = 3, or 2L/5 + 14 = 3R. By substituting the first equation in the second we have 2L/5 + 14 = 9L/5 –42. Which rearranges to:7L/5 = 56, or L = 40. So R = 10m.

Interestingly, the Singapore method of solution is different. It requires us to think more visually about the string: We cut 2/5 of it. Then 14m, and are left with a piece that is a third of the size of what was cut. In other words, we are left with 1/4 of the original length. In order to compare the fractions 2/5 and then 1/4, lets change them to the lowest common denominator, which is 20. So, we cut off 8/20, subtract 14m and are left with 5/20. Let’s now draw the string divided into twentieths:


The 14m must be 7/20 of the string, which mean each twentieth is 2m. The remaining piece of string is 5/20, i.e 10m