Benjamin Banneker Puzzle

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was born to a former slave on a farm near Baltimore. He taught himself surveying, astronomy, and mathematics. He later published several almanacs containing his astronomical observations. Banneker surveyed the District of Columbia. Here is one of his puzzles for homework. Make a guess and check table or show your work in some fashion:

A gentleman sent his servant with £100 to buy 100 cattle, with orders to give £5 for each bullock, 20 shillings for cows, and one shilling for each sheep. The question is to know what number of each sort he bought for his master.

NOTES: 20 shillings = £1; bullock = young bull
Cattle = animals in the genus bovine, includes cows, bulls, sheep, goats, swine, horses.


  1. Zachary knight said

    This is IMPOSSIBLE!!!!!! He can’t use any sheep cause that sets the balance off!

  2. Zachary knight said


  3. Skyler McCormick said

    I find this problem totaly and utterly confusing and can not find the answer. I think when we get back to class on monday you need to give us some hints or something to help thet class figure out te answer. What the hey just give us the answer and make sure we understand it.

  4. Maluhree (Mallory...) said

    Uhmm…the Benjamin Bannerker thingie is hard…uhm…I didn’t even try doing the puzzle because as skyler said, it is totally and utterly confusing. I can barely understand the question…WHAT IN THE WORLD IS SHILLINGS SUPPOSED TO MEAN!? Yeah. Hasta la BYE BYE

  5. Chris said

    i think it is one hundred cows…

  6. Jarrett said

    I think that this problem is very wierd. I think that the answer is 100 cows and 0 of everything else.

  7. ras said

    i think there is 80 sheep 19 bullocks and 1 cow ITS NOT HARD AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Kyle said

    Dude, Ras is right. But you could just do 100 cows. It doesn’t say you can’t just buy all cows.

  9. hon said

    Ras, honey, you is wrong! If there were 80 sheep, thats 80 shillings. if there is 19 bullocks, thats 95 shillings. Thats way more than 100 shillings. you is WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. booby said

    I think Hon’s wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I think Ras is right. he is a fine, man who is smart!

  11. Eloise said

    I like the fact that Ras took the time to solve the puzzle.
    My 4th grade students tried it with some explanation of course.
    Angie was given a prize because she converted the shillings back to Pounds.

  12. This is absolutely possible, without guessing and checking :3 It’s too bad i have forgotten.

  13. hamid said

    here we have two equations with three variables.
    actually this kind of equations are very practical to make such puzzles.
    because you have to set an initial value for the first variable and go for the others.

  14. keshon said

    Uhm, i got a different one for school so my answer will be different. 19bulls, 80 sheep and 1 cow.

  15. Whitney said

    Haha, the question is kinda wrong…Actually, the entire riddle is wrong. This is how it SHOULD be:
    A gentleman farmer sent his servant with $100 to by 100 animals, with orders to pay $5 for each cow, $1 for each goat, and 5 cents for each chicken. How many of each animal could the servant buy if he buys at least one of each?

    That’s the way it’s actually worded..which only makes the question harder, because the servant has to buy at least 1 of each animal. If and when i get the answer, i’ll let everyone know. This is extremely confusing!!! You all should see the other riddles Benjamin Banneker made. Compared to them, this one is nothing! 😛

  16. elvira nieto said

    19 pigs= $95 ; 1 goat= $1 ; 80 chickens = $4

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