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What Math Word Problems Sound Like to Students

Note: Though this problem is only 33 years old, it is justified as a "Golden Oldie" because of its source. That is, how many of you still have 33 1/3 record albums?

This "word problem" was an entire song, aptly named The Problem, on the record album Snack Attack (1981) by the British duo Godley and Creme. Can you solve it?


If a man, A, who weighs 11 stones leaves from his home at 8:30 in the morning in a car whose consumption is 16.25 m.p.g. at an average speed of 40 m.p.h to his office which is 12 miles away and he stops for coffee on the way for 15 minutes and also puts air in one of his tyres which has a slow puncture letting out air at a rate of 2 lbs per square inch per mile travelled when the car is moving at 32 m.p.h. and he picks up a hitch-hiker B, who weighs 14 stone plus suitcase. But hitch-hiker B, who is a political activist distributes leaflets from his suitcae each of which weigh an ounce, at the scale of 2 leaflets per person at every Bus stop, and every vehicle on either side of them at every red traffic light during the journey which includes 20 Bus stops with an average of 6 people pr stop, 5 lorries each with a passenger one of which exchanged a Yorkie Bar weighing an ounce for 12 of the leaflets, and 2 coaches each containing 51 people, 7 of which from one coach returned the leaflets and 16 people from the other coach who asked for a further leaflet each for a member of one of their families. Assuming that man A, then had to travel a further 2.86 miles out of his way to drop off hitch-hiker B, how late would man A be in arriving at the office at 9:30 a.m.? If he still had 6 miles to travel and his watch was running 23 minutes slow, but the clocvk at the office was running 2 minutes faster than his was, in fact 17 minutes and 3 seconds ahead of the correct time which was 2:30 in the morning in Caracus. If when 5 miles from the office he telephoned to his Boss to apologize for being late but was told by his Boss C to pick up a package 2.63 miles away from his presernt location and deliver it to client D, in Bristol, by train, by 4:30 trhat afternoon, and at the same time man D, was mistakenly told to come to London to receive same package from man A. Now man A's train, train 1, left 30 mins. late, but man D's train, train 2, left 5 minutes early so when the trains passed each other, train 1 was travelling at 75 m.p.h. to make up for lost time, and train 2 was travelling at 52 m.p.h., Would man A reach Bristol earlier or later according to his watch which was now running 5 mins. slower than man D's would have been, had he not got off the train and checked the correct time at a station between Bristol and London and stopped to phone A's Boss, man C, to double check A would be there to meet him and discover his mistake, catch next train, train 3, back to Bristol, which unlike A's train 1, which stopped at 4 stations on the way for 6 mins. each stop, was an express train. D's train caught up with A's train 14 miles from Bristol. As the trains drew alongside each other A's train was traveling at 12 m.p.h. and D's train was travelling at 13.6 m.p.h. and man A was sat in the front. How long would it take to fill the bath?

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