## The 10 Dumbest Maths Questions

March 21, 2010

This post could be called the 10 Most Annoying Maths Questions. It began when Sarah Ebner, who runs the fabulous Edu Blog for the Times (UK) Schoolgate asked me to comment on her daughter’s maths homework.

Here is the question:

This week we have been working on addition and subtraction linked to money. The children have been using skills relating to mental strategies such as bridging through a multiple of 10, number bonds, partitioning, doubling and near doubles, counting on or back in 10s, using what they know to look at patterns or use the inverse, using imaginary number lines or 100 square in their heads. They have also been using the idea of the difference when doing some subtraction sums or when giving change

Using the appropriate strategies, complete the attached worksheet. Show your workings. Buying a balloon. Lolla bought a balloon at the circus. She gave the clown six coins to pay for it.

What could Lolla have paid for the balloon? Which of your answers seems a reasonable amount to pay for a balloon?

Key questions:

What is the largest amount of money we could make? What is the smallest amount of money we could make? How will we know when we have all the possibilities?”

Now keep in mind this HOMEWORK has been set for an 8 year old. The complexity of this maths is ASTOUNDING, obviously, for an 8 year old. This question fits the heading ‘Permutations & Combinations’ which introduces Statistics. The language is over-the-top. It is in Australia too. Why can’t kids just DO maths? I was helping my 10 year old neighbour do his maths homework on Thursday. He was doing short division. ‘You have to know the algorithm’ he explained. “You mean you have to know the way to do the maths?’ I asked. His 8 year old sister did a pig drawing for me. I think she’s captured the moment, really without prompting.

PARENTS who do not do maths must feel totally intimidated. As an ex-maths teacher married to an engineer our kids were not blessed either. We tried, on occasion, to help them out. But it was TOO MUCH information. It might explain why both of my children grew up to be arty. One of my kids was bored witless in maths and would fall asleep on his notes. The other one did maths like SUDOKU to fill in time between art classes. Their experience, in part, is why I’ve created Mathspig. They’re not alone. Australian students are dropping advanced maths in droves. The statistic shown was published in The Australian yesterday (20th March, 2010)

I went and read a number of maths books lying around the house – collecting dust – and I found there was a real pattern to Dumb Questions.

When I returned to maths – as a hobby, always lerved it – after 25 years in the media I found texts books often read like THE ANCIENT RED SEA SCROLLS. What area does a goat graze???? A GOAT!!! Why not ‘what area does your computer mouse need to move at different lengths?’ Good maths students will tackle anything. Teachers face greater challenges. This blog is aimed at finding ways of grabbing the attention of ALL students.

Please send me any DUMB MATHS QUESTIONS you stumble across and I might give an award at the end of the year to the dumbest. The questions below are from a Year 7 TEXT book unless specified. It was quite a good text but well…..

Here are the 10 Dumbest Maths Questions;

1.SO FAKE

These are the questions where maths teachers (Text book writers are usually maths teachers) want to say ‘Look! See maths is important. You can use this particular maths to solve real problems. But the questions are so FAKE they’re laughable. Some boil down to the three men walked into a bar type model … others are just weird. Check out the Names in Q (below) and the Year 12 Q. What is the likelihood of hitting the bird? -Um, absurd!!!!!!

2. ONLY AN IDIOT

Once again trying to show students that maths is useful questions are asked that only an idiot would try to solve using maths.

IN the Year 11 Q2  (Below) if you had any relationship with a sheep or a goat – I’m thinking goat farmer – you don’t calculate the area grazed. You move the goat. In Q1 how could your friend remember all of those details, but forget the actual number of your house!!!!!!

3. THE MORAL TO THIS MATHS

In the first question check out the punishment for not doing maths!! That’s about as subtle as being hit on the head with a Maths Landing Vehicle.

In the second question the mathematicians die!!!!! Mind you, the idea might cheer up the class. look how much homeowrk the kid does in the last Q? Year 7.

4.MAKE THE MATHS WAY MORE COMPLICATED

In the first Year 11 Q you do not use matrices to score cricket statistics. In the second Q if you want to know the names of your friends, um, ask them.

5. REIGN OF TERROR

or Fear and Loathing in the Loungeroom. This is when the maths set is way beyond the resources or standard of the students involved. If these questions are then sent home as homework – as with the Q that started this whole discussion – then the pain is transferred others. Sometimes you suspect that teachers offload the questions they can’t answer to parents!!!! Here are some more. The Q1  is doable but it will be hours of fun and games for all the family. Q2, um, Wha?

6. CLUELESS

The students are studying fractions, say. Then they are given a task that involves maths they have not learnt yet. The problem is that the question looks reasonable but isn’t. These sorts of questions produce the whining lament of young students … ‘I can’t do maths!!!’

7. WE ARE FUNNY GUYS. WE MATHEMATICIANS. HA! HA!

When maths teachers make jokes they are often lame. Check out the Question below. It’s just bad PR. Who would want to grow up to be such a nerd.

8. IMPOSSIBLE

Either the question is impossible to solve. These often come from typos like ‘find the square root -4′ in Year 8. Or the question is just all wrong. Could you cut a cloth into 1mm strips…. without a laser cutter?

9. WHY BOTHER?

There is no point to doing the question. Who would count the legs to find out how many beetles are involved? So why do it?

You could go to all the trouble to work out the surface area of your dog and then calculate how many hairs Rufus had, but why? Is Rufus worried he’s going bald?

10. THERE’S NO ANSWER YOU B*&#*#!S

This has made me rethink mathspig. I’ll add more answers. There is nothing more frustrating that doing all the hard work and there is no answer at the back of the book. You want to throw the book at them. The following is a Year 12 Q but, alas, no answers at the back of the book.

## Hey Dude, the hailstones are as big as lemons!!!!!

March 9, 2010

Melbourne was hit with a big mama of a hailstorm on Saturday.  (6/3/10) There was flash flooding, hailstones up to the size of lemons (Pic Left 774 ABC listener at Scorseby and lower right Herald Sun ) and winds up to 100 kph. The lemon sized hailstones left holes in rooves in the central path of the storm. Flood and hail damage is estimated at \$A200 million.

You can see some of the action on Incredible Melbourne Storm on YouTube

How fast do hailstones fall?

Can a hailstone kill you?

Working out the speed of hailstones is tricky because hail falls when it is too heavy for the updraft supporting it. Hailstones bump around inside the thunderstorm hitting raindrops and other hailstones. This bumping slows down their fall. Turbulence, drag and air resistance also effect the speed.

Fear not mathspigs.

Someone somewhere always has an equation. In this case, the National Severe Storms Laboratory USA has come up with an equation for hailstone freefall speed (Density 0.92 g/cc).

Year 11 & 12 mathspigs you can do these calcs and you will find an absolutely wonderful scientific calculator at WEB2.0Calc

It’s raining, um, fruit out here?

The bureau of meteorology runs into problems trying to name the sizes of hailstones. In the major 1999 hailstorm in Sydney the following descriptions were used: “tennis ball” size (6.3 cm), “cricket ball” (7 cm) or “oranges” (8 cm) “grapefruits” (10 cm), “half-bricks” (about 11.5 cm) and “rockmelons” (about 13 cm). More details @ Natural Hazards Quarterly.

Mathspig got caught in this hailstorm. I was flying from Melbourne to Sydney to Armadale. Arriving just after the storm I found all flights temporarily cancelled as many of the small planes were damaged. I was eventually put on a flight… I didn’t know where I was going. I landed in Tamworth and caught a bus to Armadale. As we flew out we could see the storm damaged rooves.

How fast do hailstones fall? Take a look.

As I want this blog to be accessible for mathspigs of high school standard. I’ve done some calcs for you.

You can do the volume calcs. But as you can see a lemon-sized hailstone would be coming at you at 200 kph and it would weigh about half a kilo.  You can work out the exact weight using the density volume calcs and density above @ 0.92 g/cc . (Note: This hailstone speed equation is for terminal velocity in a free fall. If there was a side wind the hailstone would be going even faster!!)

So run for it!!!!

Can a hailstone kill you? Yes!!! There are not that many recorded deaths. According to the Dallas Observer News (13th April 2000) Juan Carlos Osegueraa, 19 year old youth of Fort Worth Texas died trying to save his familiy’s Mazda pickup truck when a softball size hailstone smashed through the window into his temple. He was 2 1/2 m from safety.

Take care, mathspigs.  Don’t be tempted to save a car in a hailstorm.