Every parent of an elementary-aged kid knows the struggle of helping out with math homework. After all, it seems like every year, teachers and administrators have come up with a new way to solve basic math problems, meaning that not only do parents have to flex their basic math muscles again (probably after decades of enjoying the use of calculators) but they also have to learn a whole new system of doing the math that they learned so long ago. All of that is extremely difficult. Add that to the occasionally extremely poorly designed math question, and you have, sometimes, evenings at the kitchen table that end in tears for all involved.
At least that’s what I have to assume that’s what happened when, in January of 2018, Angie Warner, a mom of a 2nd grader, found herself completely stumped by a math question on her kid’s homework, which she posted on a mom’s Facebook group as she and her child were both equally stumped and could not figure out how to solve the problem. “There are 49 dogs signed up to compete in the dog show. There are 36 more small dogs than large dogs signed up to compete. How many small dogs signed up to compete?” The question reads.
Here’s the problem: if there are 36 more small dogs than large dogs signed up to compete, that means that there would be 13 large dogs and 36 small dogs, for a total of 49 dogs. But that also means that there are only 23 more small dogs than large dogs! Angie was stumped and so were her Facebook friends, and in the end, she wrote a note on her kid’s homework that neither of them could solve the problem.
It turns out that the teacher, who had assigned the homework and then had a substitute teacher the next day, couldn’t figure out the answer upon her return either. She had taken the math question from school district materials, meaning the mystery went all the way to the top. After a few days, Angie found out the answer: and it turns out that the number of dogs that makes the problem make sense is 6.5 large dogs and 42.5 small dogs. So, you know. If you’re struggling to do some basic math with your 7-year-old, sometimes it’s not you. Sometimes it’s the math questions themselves.