Math Word Problems We Can Use

My 11-year-old son’s homework got me thinking about it.

“A seal swims 30 miles per hour. A sea lion, 25. If they both swim for five hours, how much further will the seal have gone?” he said.

“Figure it out,” I said, bending to slide a dish between the tines of the dishwasher tray. “Focus on the units for a sec, not the numbers.”

He puzzled momentarily, elbows on the counter on either side of his math book. Under the glow of a hanging halogen spotlight, he looked stark and studious.

“Twenty-five miles,” he said, and wrote the answer on a worksheet. “What will he do there? Won’t he be lonely without the sea lion to talk to?”

I chuckled; he shrugged and got on to the next problem. Trains, runners, blue widgets, red widgets, whatever. I clinked around the silverware as I organized it in the tray.

If Husband One loads the dishwasher seven times in a week, and there is no Husband Two (as far as Husband One knows), but Wife One washes the sheets and puts them back on without being asked, how many Marriage Points net does each accrue by week’s end?

I snorted quietly.

“What?” my son said, looking up, pencil poised between figures.

“Nothing. Do you need help with another one?”

“No; I’m fine.”

Father A uses sixteen thinky-watts of energy per hour wondering about the future of Son One. If Son One goes to College X, Father A will have to save how much to help Son One? Hint: Answer may be an imaginary number. Extra credit: Why is Father A called Father A? Is he a priest? If so, why does he have Son One?

If Man eats two extra graham crackers every day, derive his per-calorie happiness, adjusted for coming swimsuit embarrassment. Round to the nearest belly.

Calculate the area of the yearning heart on a chart where the Y axis is stress and the X axis is Lucca, Italy.

Using Man as a constant, describe the unreasonable — or all too reasonable — fears that wake him in the night. Solve to the fourth decimal.

Demystify love. Show your work.

By this time, I was standing at the counter, where I had soundlessly closed the door of the dishwasher. I was staring into space.

“Done!” my son said, slapping down his pencil. “Wanna go play basketball?”

“Yes.” –Adam Barr


Copyright 2012 Adam Barr

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