Can someone help me with my 5-year-old daughter’s Math homework?

I’m being serious. It’s due tomorrow and I have no idea how to answer the following question.

Now, the answer to this is obviously “four.” The narrator has four cats. The number of cats his or her friend has is irrelevant to the question.

I’m just not sure how to fill in the pictures and symbols. Here’s what I have so far.

But I’m not sure what to put in between. So here’s my final answer. Please check my work.

Please give your students this quiz, and how big is a “bushel” anyway?

(h/t: Freakonomics blog)

The following is an actual test given to 8th grade students in Kansas in 1895, unearthed by the Salina Journal. Please refer to the “arithmetic” section.

Here are the “arithmetic” questions and my attempted responses:

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.

Umm….. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?

2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?

/1985 8th grader pushes wooden desk aside and grabs a laptop equipped with Google Sketch-up

Wait, how big is a bushel?

/1895 8th grader googles “how big is a bushel of hay”

/is unsuccessful

3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 pounds, what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?

Let’s see. I know that “tare” is something they do at the deli counter so you don’t end up paying for the slight weight of the bag holding your meat. So, I’m going to say I’m paying for 3942 lbs – 1050 lbs = 2892 lbs.

Now, 2892 lbs at 50 cts/bu….. ? “Bu?” Does that have anything to do with a bushel? Cause I’m out.

4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?

What a coincidence! We still fund schools at the same rate of $50 a month NOW!

So let’s see, District No. 33 (not related to District 9) needs 7 x $50 = $350 and then $104 for “incidentals.” So they need a total of $454. So we need a levy against the $35000. Well, 454/35000 = 0.01297…

So there would need to be a levy of 1.3%. Good luck getting that tax bill passed in this political climate.

5. Find cost of 6,720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.

Finally! An easy one! 6720 lbs = 3.36 tons (I thought it was spelled “tonnes” back then).

So that’s $20.16 for 3.36 tons at $6 per ton.

6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 per cent.

At 7% what, exactly? You see, they do these “early paycheck” scams nowadays where you pay like 7% interest per week or something.

7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per in.?

This is a trick question. You can’t pay for in “in.” as the question suggests. You pay according to “square inch”! Boomroasted!

8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 per cent.

Um… 10% of $300 is $30…. Pass.

9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?

Love this question. Every Geometry teacher on earth has asked a less-19th Century version of this question.

According to ye olde wikipedia, a “rod” is equal to 5.5 yards. So the fact that it’s a square and has a perimeter of 640 rods suggests the dimensions are 160 rods x 160 rods. Or 25600 square rods. Or 2640 ft. x 2640 ft = 6969600 sq. ft. An acre is 43560 sq. ft. So this farm has an acrage of 6969600/43560 = 160 acres.

At $15 an acre, that’s $2400.

They had calculators back then, right?

10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

Ummm.. Pass.

I absolutely love this last question though. Talk about authentic learning! I’m sure they had to be able to do this soon after they graduated the 8th grade. And I love that this is categorized under “arithmetic” and not “economics” or something.

I also love how the quiz is clearly Kansas-centric. It was just expected that students should know all about bushels, farms, and promissory notes. Localizing your assessment and activities can do wonders for comprehension.

Aaron Rodgers, Super Bowl MVP, has given us the go-ahead; the ball is in your court, Math teachers


By the way, how cool would it be if you did have a WWE-style championship belt in your class? Something huge and gaudy, preferably. And the student who most highly succeeds on a test, presentation, etc. gets to wear it until it is “taken” by another student.

I’m also envisioning entrance music.

This is the strangest x-axis I have ever seen (update: not really that strange at all)

Update 1: Anonymous points out that it says log scale right under the graph. Yep. That’s it right there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I need an editor. Thanks anon. So it’s actually not strange, but rather perfectly logical. It’s also Friday. Oh well. Still, there’s got to be something we can do with this. Give students the x-axis demarcations and ask them to provide the scale? Linearize the data? Or turn the linear data into a log scale? Regress the data linearly and logarithmically?

And here I was getting all uptight about the Tour de France stage profile x-axes.


‘Groundhog Day:’ How long has Bill Murray been in Punxsutawney? (Part 2)

Our celebration of Groundhog Day and Groundhog Day continues with our second question about Phil and his time spent in Punsutawney.


This scene from Groundhog Day.

Guiding Questions

  • How long has Bill Murray (“Phil”) been practicing throwing cards into a hat?
  • Has Phil spent more time throwing cards into a hat than you’ve spent in Math class this year? Your entire high school career?
  • How good can you get at throwing cards into a hat after practicing for, say, 5 minutes? Can you make three in a row?


Rita: It would take a year to get good at this.

Phil: No. Six months. Four to five hours a day and you’d be an expert.

6 months = about 180 days.

180 days x 4 hours/day = 720 hours.

180 days x 5 hours/day = 900 hours.

Depending on the length of your school calendar and class periods, students are probably in Math class for about 200 hours/year. So that would be a “no” on Math-in-a-year vs. Phil-with-a-hat. But a “possibly” to Math-in-a-high-school-career vs. Phil-with-a-hat.

‘Groundhog Day’ “I’m a god” scene solution

Here’s my attempt at a solution to the previous post on Groundhog Day.

In order for Bill Murray (“Phil”) to convince Rita and allow for Rita’s peppering of questions, we have to assume that Phil knows everyone in the restaurantIt’s tough to get a beat on the number of people in the restaurant, but it’s a lot. I’ll start counting, but then we may have to fudge the numbers a little bit.