Some things just don't add up

There are those who say maths is boring. But most of us know the truth. Maths is like oxygen: important and inescapable, lurking.

Maths met me at the swimming pool the other day, in the equational logic of lifeguards: ''You know, if you have a swim, you'll be able to have that extra glass of wine this evening.''

A seesaw, sporting freestyle lengths on the left side and balancing wineglasses on the right. Because life could be that simple. Lengths out. Wine in. Repeat.

Numbers followed me home in a car spouting fuel economy ratios. And then there was Phil.

''Not Phil again!''

My daughter started tapping keys a touch more aggressively.

I turned super-soprano. A man. Bothering my daughter. Online?

''Who is this Phil, darling?''

Phil, it turns out, is a maths-comprehension-question man.

He'd been doing a whole lot of home renovation and the answer was the total spendycuffs.

You can only put in a number value.

But you could just as well have reading comprehension questions, such are the complexities of the presented scenarios.

What is Phil compensating for or hiding from by undertaking such major works?

Will he be able to afford food to prepare in his flash new kitchen?

Would it be cheaper to consider building a new house?

Now factor in that the new house will take twice as long and cost twice as much as planned.

What's the figure now?

Poor Phil.

Sums and equations are only part of the picture.

It all adds up to more than it adds up to.

Want to test the numbers?

See how you go with these maths comprehension questions.

1. There are 4156 pieces of Lego, 17 imposter bits, an old tissue and half of a dead fly tipped out on the floor. Calculate the probability of the following:a) the imposter bits will weaken and ruin an otherwise magnificent structureb) someone will have to yell before the pieces get picked upc) the tissue will still be in the box this time next yeard) the vacuum cleaner will eat something small yet cruciale) there will be tears

2. If 143 trained soldiers with weapons are sent to a war zone for between nine months and two years, what are the chances that someone's going to get hurt?

3. Pythagoras' grandmother had a theory that it takes exactly three minutes to boil an egg if you place it in boiling water with a silver spoon on a rainy morning in July. If Pythagoras = P and his granny = G and a spoon = S and so on, transcribe a foolproof equation for the boiling of an egg. How would your answer differ from a wooden spoon in June?

4. Jatinda did not win an April Fool's Day car but really feels like upgrading her motor. Should she get very reasonable finance terms (8.1%pa/ts&cs/etc) at her local dealership, AAADaz's Dream Deals, or extend her mortgage again? In either case, what is the probability that she will meet and fall in love with Daz? Refer to the Secretary Problem in your answer.

5. If it takes one teacher three seconds to tick each of five boxes for 150 students, what is the total time spent ticking boxes? Now add thinking, caring and worrying. Oh, and teaching. And some kind of home life. And sleep. Your answer is n. If n is equal to or more than the number of hours in a day then think of other things n could also stand for.

6. Fancy beers costs $8 at the supermarket and $12 on tap. Calculate how many preload bots you will want and how much cash you should take out if a) you decide to have dinner out as well or b) you have more beer instead of dinner and throw up in the taxi on the way home. Assume you will have to pay a $40 taxi surcharge. (n.b. An understanding of the economic beer scale is a mandatory requirement for university entry in many countries. You may be tested on your ability to express the monetary value of household purchases, bills or other so-called essentials in multiples of beer.)

7. A car has four wheels, an angry horn and a top speed of 160kmh. A kid's bike has two wheels, a ding-a-ling bell and a cruising speed of look-at-that-letterbox/tree/crazed driver. Who owns the road?

8. Jatinda is a considerate driver but her new car breaks down, as does her relationship with Daz. Jatinda decides to take the 5.32 train home. If Phil is usually on the 5.27 train, but is running six minutes late and the trains are on time, how can you foresee a happy ending?

 


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