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Tuesday, 03 August 2010 16:56

Math Word Problems

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Years ago when first reading word problems in my math book I felt I was reading about things on another planet. They did not make any sense to me. Why on earth would anyone try to figure out answers to the questions that book was asking. I entertained my self by drawing pictures in the margins, pictures that had a relationship to where I was sitting. The wording of those questions was as strange as the thinking I was supposed to do to get the answers. They always seemed to have a number of different answers even though we were told there was only one right answer. That just didn’t fit my young life.

Now I know there are questions that are not questions at all; where there are no right answers other than the answers that make sense. Traditionally they are called parables. Why didn’t we have parables in my math book? Why aren’t there parables in math books today? Too many right answers I guess.

Here are two contributions for a math book, if anyone cares to use them. They are certainly something one can draw pictures to, even if you can’t come up with the right answers.

Problem #1

The square when resting had a dream of triangles, pentagons, hexagons, trapezoids, octagons, and circles. Upon awaking he was troubled finding this dream disturbing.

The triangle when resting had a dream of squares, pentagons, hexagons, rhomboids, octagons, and circles. Upon awaking the triangle was also troubled finding this dream disturbing, but not as much as the square.

The circle when resting had a dream of triangles and squares, pentagons, hexagons, and all manner of polygons. Upon awakening the circle had a slight bitterness at the delightful recollection of this dream.

The sphere dreaming of all those things, upon awaking did not know it, and so continued dreaming on.


Problem #2

A man comes from a sphere; he does not remember. He grows up on a sphere, surrounded by endless spheres of all different sizes. He looked around and it appeared to him flat. He holds a ball in his hands; bounces it on the “flat” to entertain himself, then for profit, and possibly for the enjoyment of others.

Another man comes from a sphere; he does not remember. He holds an imaginary sphere in his hands; no one can see it. He compressed the sphere into a circle and then sticking his head into the circle his mind was consumed knowing spherical reality.

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Bradford Hansen-Smith

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