Word Problems

No, I’m not having trouble expressing myself – well, yes, I am, but that’s normal! – but I wanted to share something a little more lighthearted.  Going to Mary’s math class with her has been one of the more rewarding and challenging aspects of the kids being in Ukrainian school this year.  Mary is very good at math, is quick to understand new concepts, and is, in general, one of those people that others scowl at when they’re struggling with the problem that she is sailing through.

The challenge, of course, is getting the concepts being presented fast enough so that I can find the related words in English and pass them along to her.  Since we’re doing fractions – and fairly complex stuff at that – words like ‘common denominator’, reciprocal, ‘(mathematically) simplify’ and so on are running through my head at breakneck speed as I sort out which one it is we’re talking about in a given moment.

So far, so good.  Especially when the kid gets it so you don’t have to keep coming up with the words.  She looks at the math and, regardless of the words, can make sense of it.  Whew!

But then there are word problems.  Mark and I have always laughed when we look back to when we were doing this with Anna, knowing very little Russian and no Ukrainian, and there was that train problem, with the two trains heading out from the station at such-and-such a speed and so on.  Well, we’ve met the trains, and the automobiles, and the heater boats (just call it a boat, why don’t you?!); we’ve repaired so many percentage of road in one month, another fraction in the next month, and 45 more meters in the last month and then figured out how much road was repaired in all.

But the swimming pool has me stumped.  I’m sure I’m just tired (wallpaper and such can do that to a person, I’ve heard).  But my inner puzzle solver who always lives for a puzzle just up and practically shouted, ‘Enough!’  So for the mathematically inclined, I ask a favor:  please show me how to set the problem up?  I couldn’t even set it up!

Here goes:  A swimming pool is filled up using one pipe/hose in 10 hours.  The pool can be filled using a second pipe in 1 1/4 times less time than the first pipe takes.  How long will it take to fill the swimming pool if both pipes are used at the same time?  Having used both pipes to fill the pool, what fraction of the pool can be said to have filled by each pipe?

I was flipping through the book one day last week and saw the word ‘Jerry’.  Upon closer inspection, Tom and Jerry were up to something, but I’ll save that for another day.  I’ve still got to find out how long the bus stops at each stop if the route is 20 1/4 km long and travels at a speed of 45 km/hr and can do the whole route in 7/10 of an hour (oh, there are 10 stops)…

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