Saturday, December 11, 2010

Story Problems

A little background:
At some point, educators changed "word problems" to "story problems," most likely to make them seem less intimidating.  At any rate, part of teaching math courses for future elementary ed teachers is getting them to write appropriate story problems.  On their final exam for this semester, they were asked to write problems for addition, multiplication, and division.  Some were highly entertaining, due to either creativity or unsolvability.  Enjoy!


1)  A group of 13 hippies needs to go to Whole Foods, but their Priuses can only hold 5 of them.  How many Priuses will the hippies need in order for all of them to go to the store?  They'll need 3 cars because all the hippies need to go to the grocery store.

The next two are from Ashley.  I knew she wouldn't let me down, and she managed to make it through, but only just.  Whew and hooray!
2)  Shrek has 14 pet bugs he wants to share with his 3 friends.  If all his friends get the same number of bugs, how many will each friend get?  The answer is 4 R 2 is best because no one wants a fractional bug.
3)  Scrooge has 14 Christmas cakes to equally split between 3 employees.  How many cakes, including fractional cakes, will each employee get? The answer 4 2/3 is best because cake can be broken into pieces, and since he's a changed man, Scrooge will give all the cake away.

The complexity of this last one cracks me up.
4)  13 of Santa's elves want to take a break from all the toy making, and they want to get away from the cold.  They decide to take a road trip to Florida.  If 5 elves can fit in each car, how many cars will they need? They need 3, two cars of five and one car of three, so that everyone can go.  They can put their extra luggage in with the car of three.


1)  Elyse is walking a 2 1/2 mile walk and has 1 1/3 miles left to go.  How fast is she walking?
My initial reaction: The speed of light?

2)  There are 5 rooms and 13 walls.  How many cans of paint should I buy?
My initial reaction: Infinity and beyond!


1)  A student wrote, "Get a common dominator."  Reow!!  Oh, the black leather-clad visions that swam through my head.

2)  At the bottom of page 8 (of 9), my filterless student wrote, "Lord, help me pass."  She made an 82%, her best score of the semester. 

I have to laugh at them to keep from crying.


  1. I like these a lot.

    I wrote a required short story for a college math class that had a soldier scout calling in an artillery strike on an enemy camp. He gets into a fight trying to withdraw to his own lines losing his radio communication as a result, He then and tries to work out the time it would take for the artillery he was calling in to hit his position as he tried to escape.

    The scout died. The calculation was incorrect.

    But I got an A because the TA couldn't tell if it was an intentional error in service to the story and liked the tale so much.

    I am the Eeevviilll One.