Why must the “word problems” we give our children to solve be boring? Let the problems capture the imagination, and then math homework will be a joy. Here are a few problems, all of which Dr. Boli cheerfully donates to the public, with explicit permission to copy and use them in any form for any purpose.
1. Aralia Sneep planted 84 kangaroo seeds, but 13 of them grew into wallabies instead. What percentage of the seeds were actually wallaby seeds?
2. Because the waiter served your pie in your face, you have decided that he deserves only a 13% tip. The bill was $18.75. How much do you give the waiter?
3. In the town of Mysterious Glowing Rock, Wyoming, 27% of the people have three feet instead of two. If the population is 134, how many feet are there in town? (Round to the nearest foot.)
4. It is a known fact that 8% of male Plaid-Headed Warblers have wing markings in the shape of Carmen Miranda. Some guy at the Uni-Mart says that there are 27 male Plaid-Headed Warblers with wing markings in the shape of Carmen Miranda in Ohiopyle State Park. If that is true, how many male Plaid-Headed Warblers are there in the park? (Round to the nearest bird.)
5. This week only, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is offering a 30% discount on legislators from smaller urban areas. If it usually costs $79.95 to buy a state representative from Altoona, how much will it cost this week?
6. Brenneman’s Frosted Honey Crunch cereal is made of 92% sugar and 8% crunch by weight. If the manufacturer has 631 pounds of crunch on hand, how much sugar will be needed to make all the crunch into a batch of Frosted Honey Crunch cereal?
7. It is well known that 12 members of the royal house of Cowvetch-Hastings-Mulligan-Gasket von Toaster are mad, but no one knows which members. If there are 54 members of the family altogether, what is the percentage chance that Rupert Adolphus Griswold Cowvetch-Hastings-Mulligan-Gasket von Toaster is mad?
8. On average, 39% of everything the novelist Osmorhiza Yi writes is absolute rubbish. Assuming that this rate is consistent in all of her novels, how many pages of rubbish will you have to wade through in her 1,523-page opus Damp Petals of a Wild Geranium?
9. Mr. Zim’s Instant Gourmet shop was hit by a flood, in which 73% of his stock of freeze-dried eels were accidentally rehydrated and swam away. If Mr. Zim has 87 packages of freeze-dried eels now, how many packages did he have before the flood? (Round to the nearest package.)
10. A sloth spends 80% of its time asleep. There are 60 seconds in a minute. How many seconds in the next minute will Calvin Coolidge, the sloth at the Wilmerding Zoo, spend asleep?
(N.B.—Any answer to question 10 should be accepted if it is supported by a coherent argument.)