This morning James had half as much money as his brother and 27 dollars less than his sister. Then his brother paid James and his sister every 12 dollars not to tell their parents what happened out in the garden last Wednesday. After the payoff, James's sister has twice as much money as James's brother. How much money does James have now?
For a question like this, it is essential that you explain carefully to your reader what any variable that you introduce represents. Begin your solution by introducing some variable or variables and tell the reader exactly what they represent.
James's original money = M
Brother's original money = 2M
Sister's original money = M + 27
After the payoff
( [ M + 27 ] + 12) = 2 (2M - 24) simplify
M + 39 = 4M - 48 add 48 to both sides, subtract M from both sides
87 = 3M divide both sides by 3
29 = M
So....James now has 29 + 12 = $41