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“With Our Students’ Math Scores Plummeting, Perhaps It’s Time We All Take a Lesson in Basic Math”


   Hello everyone, Duh Progressive readers, etc.

   It’s nice to speak to you all today.  Yet I am afraid I’m coming to you with some discouraging news.  I teach math in one of Chicago’s public schools, the name of which I do not care to mention for reasons of employment risks (speaking of which: yes, it sucks to be back at work).

    Regardless, I have been teaching math for 12 years and I must admit: the situation with America’s youth and their comprehension of fundamental math has never been worse. I teach 7th grade algebra and remedial arithmetic in Chicago, and never have I seen young adults so inept at learning basic math. Sure, there are always some kids who will struggle, but their numbers are increasing every year since I began teaching.   So I’ve decided to publish five of the most common questions I ask on the tests I give, those which my students seem to have the most trouble with; five of the most critical, challenging mathematical conundrums American academia can conjure.  This is a simple lesson I wish all to take, however old you may be.  After all, it’s never too late to brush up on your comprehensive math skills.  So here we go:

Problem 1:  Let’s say that Faheem and Baratunde are sharing a soy-based organic milkshake.  Faheem drinks ½ of the milkshake while recalling the night George W. Bush killed his family outside of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.  Then Baratunde drinks one-half less of the milkshake than Faheem.  How much of the milkshake will be left before Baratunde contracts HIV?

Problem 2:  Bart, Gretchen, and Juan-Domingo-Florencia-Miguel-Martinez are dividing up an ounce of a sacred South American spiritual herb between them, worth $275.00 on the streets of most major U.S. cities.  Juan-Domingo-Florencia-Miguel-Martinez agrees to take 35% of the sacred herb, while Gretchen dispenses 46% evenly among her five non-marital-based children in Detroit.  Bart loses his share on his way to his NA meeting, which leaves each of Gretchen’s children with what percentage of sacred herb?   How much is it worth, and will Gretchen’s children ever be able to enjoy the “herb” before dying in motorcycle accidents (while not wearing any helmets, of course)?

Problem 3:  Let’s say a group of young male friends, Troy, Leonard, Khuzaimah, and Fernando are amateur magicians practicing a trick called “Where to Hide the 14 Rubber ‘Super Intruder’ Fists We Bought At the All-Night Adult Novelty Store.”   Fernando, Troy, and Leonard have already “hidden” four of the Intruder Fists.  Khuzaimah can only hide one fist because he is too busy funneling money to Muslim “freedom fighters” in eastern Libya, which leaves the group with only 6 free hands.  If the remaining Intruder Fists are divided between the group's member who still cries over the fact he was raised by Mormons, who is not hiding any “Intruder Fist?”

Problem 4:  Delinqua, LaQueesha, Unique, Mendacious and Abdul have bought 100 dashikis to wear and pass out to their friends in protest over America’s most disgraceful remaining holiday: Christopher Columbus Day. Mendacious has given all of his three dashikis away. Delinqua is passed out.  Unique has given Delinqua her four remaining dashikis, but then Cincinnati police rip away half of them.  Abdul is beaten and arrested by Arizona state troopers for being an undocumented resident (i.e. a “Dreamer”), and has his two dashikis confiscated.  In the ensuing riot, how many dashikis were there if there are still 20% of them in circulation? (hint: Delinqua has been rushed to the hospital).

Problem 5:  Brenda, Larkshuri, and Padmini have 9 mommies between them.  If Brenda’s mommy runs off with Padmini’s two mommies, and then one of Padmini’s mommies discovers her true life’s calling is to meditate in Tibet, how many of Larkshuri’s mommies are able to pick up her morning after pills the next day? (hint: Larkshuri has already shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and blown herself up in the middle of a marketplace in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan).

     Well, there you have it.  Hopefully I have jogged some mathematical memories and put some idle minds, old and young, to work.  Luckily this lesson will inspire people to take renewed interest in math and realize how it relates to our everyday lives.  Thank you for this lesson.

     —Nigel Gainsby

       Chicago Public School Teacher, Math

       Chicago, Illinois


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