Math Homework I Wish I Still Got

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Call me a nerd (hey, I do write for Mental_floss), but I kind of miss my math homework. Back in the days before algebra and trig, math homework meant math problems embedded in intricate stories, arithmetic trickery and the occasional logic puzzle. In short, they were the kinds of puzzles that people secretly love to do in their free time. But once high school hit, math problems got a lot more tedious and complex and less fun. Now that I'm in college, I've completely ditched math and if it weren't for my obsession with sudoku and kakuro, I doubt I'd use my left brain at all.

So, for the sake of geeky nostalgia, here's the kind of homework I wish I could still get from math classes. Be sure to chime in with the problems you couldn't wait to get home to do.

Hanging Balance Problems

Different shapes hang in balance in elaborate, mobile-like structures. With just a few clues, it was up to you to figure how much each shape weighed in order to keep everything in balance. Looking back, those balance problems were just a sneaky way to get 5th graders thinking about algebra, but making equations with triangles and cubes is way more appealing than thinking in terms of x's and y's. These were by far my favorite form of math homework- I would even ask for extra problems and often my parents would even make their own copies to make math homework a family affair.

Crossfigures

I like crosswords. I like math (to a point). So the crossfigure seemed to be the best of both worlds. The crossfigure is just a crossword puzzle, only with numbers. The clues often played off each other (like "29-across minus four"), so solving them involved some knowhow. I didn't get them as homework so often, mostly just as a fun break from the daily grind.

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Bobo's Word Problems

Sadly, I can't give you many details on this- Bobo was a character in a series of word problems I was given for a class. Something about having a recurring character (especially one that I imagined to be a clown) just made word problems a little easier to swallow. In fact, I liked the Bobo problems so much, my sixth grade math fair project was just a series of Bobo's adventures that I solved.

Anything related to sports

Even though calculus had it's fair share of word problems, they just weren't real enough situations. When will I be trying to figure out the volume of a tank of oil that is simultaneously being filled and drained at different rates? Even the old-school arithmetic problems were a little hard to grasp- who shares apples anyways? But sports made word problems easier to handle. Figuring out different ways to make an NFL team score 20 points or figuring out a pitcher's ERA made math fun. Thankfully, fellow blogger Sandy was able to bring back that feeling with this Brain Game last month.

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October 15, 2008 - 6:58am
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