Word Problems

You know what I never really liked as a kid? Word problems. You're sitting in math class one fine day and the teacher passes out a worksheet. It's got one paragraph on it, and the rest of it is blank space where you're supposed to put all your work.

And this one paragraph is all like, 'If Farmer Brown has 27 bushels of apples and each bushel has 57 ' rotten, wormy apples in it, how many of his children does he have to sell to a Nike sweatshop in Malaysia to buy two aspirin for his ailing mother-in-law during the Depression?'

And then you get to Algebra, and it's even worse. Now you learn that math isn't just about numbers. Now you have to use letters too! I always thought those were just for English class, but no! Now you have to mix them in with your numbers. Sooner or later, you're doing your homework and you run across this problem: 2x2 + 5y27 (3w1/99 ' 7s3) = 2 And you're left wondering, 'How can all those letters equal two?'

All right, so finally you're going along at a pretty fair pace with that, getting maybe five problems done an hour, and you look back at the assignment: p.127 problems 1-319. Anyway, you're chugging along, when suddenly you turn the page, and- word problems! No warning or anything. They just kind of snuck up on you. You're doing all these nice little number-letter problems, then you turn the page and WHAM! Word problems. And now that you're learning Algebra, it's no 'Farmer Brown selling his children into slavery.' Now you have to find an equation for this weird little s-curvy line on a 3-D set of axes that's putting its money into a bank with compound interest. And you're asking yourself, 'What happened to those nice little bar graphs? When did this curvy thing and compound-interest banks sneak in?' And somehow, your teacher expects you to understand this.

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