Monday, June 17, 2013

Weekend Word Problems

When I was in school we used to call them “story problems.” The textbook people tricked you into thinking you were going to hear a story, when behind their clever words lay an evil math problem.

And I hated them.

Almost every math concept could be forced into a story problem. To make matters worse, the textbook people added extra information or purposely left out necessary facts just to make you sweat!

Perhaps I spent too much time substitute teaching this year because it’s all coming back to haunt me, and I’m starting to describe events in terms of story problems. So here are a few math exercises disguised as weekend highlights.


  1. On Wednesday Little Letellier and his mother were packing for a 3 day 2 night summer camp. His mother packed two pairs of clean underwear, one for each night. At the last minute she packed one more pair “just in case.” Little Letellier was wearing one clean pair of underwear when he left for camp. When Little Letellier returned from camp on Friday he had three clean pair of underwear in his backpack. He was also wearing one pair. How many times did Little Letellier change his undies while at camp? How do you know? Explain your answer.

  1. Mr. Letellier had been training for The Big Mick—a 109 mile bike ride through the Black Hills. He and two friends started the ride at 5:45 AM MST and made four stops. If they averaged 14 mph and arrived at the finish at 5:45PM CST, did they burn all the calories they consumed at the pancake breakfast? Approximately how long did they linger at each stop? What is the probability that Mr. Letellier will ride the same race next year? How long will it be before Mr. Letellier gets on a bicycle again?

  1. While Mr. Letellier was riding his bike Mrs. Letellier went to the mall. She stopped first at The Buckle.  She was the oldest one in the store and nothing struck her fashion fancy. The last time Mrs. Letellier shopped at The Buckle it was actually called The Brass Buckle. Approximately how old is Mrs. Letellier? How ridiculous do you suppose Mrs. Letellier felt asking a 15 year-old about jeans sizes? Is it immoral to charge $62 for a pair of shorts? Based on what you know about Mrs. Letellier’s spending habits, do you think she paid $62 for a pair of shorts?

Please show your work in the comments.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dirty Laundry

It happened again. We were in a tizzy collecting hats, shirts, cleats, water bottles, gloves, mitts, bats and balls from the far corners of the house and garage.

Unfortunately, clean baseball pants could not be found.

A little digging, literally, revealed that the best and favorite baseball pants were in the damp and dirty heap of laundry which I had been conveniently ignoring.

In the rush to get out the door, I urged the boys to wear clean baseball pants, even if they were the ones with a hole or didn't fit quite right.

“Mom, these fall down when I run!” one of them said incredulously. It was a tough point to argue, so I consented in a huff!

“Fine. Wear the dirty ones.”

He quickly changed into the dirty ones that fit. When he stood, I saw that the pants were grass stained from mid-thigh to below the knee. A huge probably-never-gonna-get-it-out-anyway grass stain.

I looked him over and shook my head still wishing he would wear the ill-fitting, clean ones. He saw it in my expression. Trying to draw me back to reality he asked, “Does it really matter which pants I wear?”

I turned for the door and answered correctly, “No. I guess it doesn't.”

It doesn't matter if you wear grass stained baseball pants to a baseball game where you’re going to get grass stains. I repeated it to convince myself, “No. It doesn't matter.”

As we headed toward the ball diamond they joined the team around the pitcher’s mound. My boys are walking hampers. A declaration of my laundry laziness.

I was almost ready to high-five myself for “getting over it” when I realized there was someone new on the field.

A photographer.

Oh yeah.

Team pictures.

So I asked myself again, “Does it matter?” And with disappointment I answered, “No.”

Shouldn't I feel relived that it doesn't matter? Of course I should. But I was disappointed because my laundry neglect was about to be memorialized in a glossy, full color, 5x7 print. Alas, I had pre-ordered a “sports folder photo package” to display at home, wear as a button on my jacket, and place as a magnet on our fridge.

As I watched the photographer arrange the boys by height, kneeling just right, in the dirt, I finally looked past the grass stains and saw the boy inside the dirty laundry.

He posed confidently with grass-stained knees bent in a batting stance. His photogenic smile was proof he had not wasted one second wondering what other people think about his mom’s laundry schedule.

Then she snapped the photo.

It will be a few weeks before I see how it turned out. But when I get that “sports folder photo package” I’m going to display the dirty grass stained picture. I’m going to put the magnet on my fridge, and if I’m feelin’ the team spirit, I might even wear the button.

Because the grass stained pants are worn by a boy who showed his mom what mattered.


And that is worth displaying.