Math Problems For English Majors

It’s not always “write, write, write”. I have to stimulate the mind in other ways as well.

One is editing. I love editing. I’m just now getting back into editing other people’s prose, which is a joy for me. It’s like a logic puzzle in English; which is just as well since I am terrible at math.

This is a problem I understand is common with a lot of “creative types” (or lazy types like me.) And that is a shame. I have a huge amount of respect for mathematicians. Especially considering I have a better chance of becoming a unicorn than I do a mathematician it makes the profession all that more mystical to me.

So I feel a little left out of an entire way of viewing everything due to my limitations. I can discuss the poetry of Sandra Cisneros or talk about the impact James Baldwin had on American prose, but once someone puts a math problem involving the alphabet in front of me, I am curiously prone to following the command “cluck like a chicken.”

So why should we left-brainers be kept out of the party?

I happen to have a solution to the problem. It’s what I call:

Math Problems For English Majors!

Here are a few.

Question One:

You have five apples, Jim has six apples, Jane has four apples, and Martin has seven apples.

Martin has already eaten, so he wants 1/12th of the total apples among you. Jane loves apples and would like to have 1/2 of the total apples. Jim is amenable to this but wants six apples to take home to his sister, who is on the elimination diet. Martin changes his mind and, upon saying that there’s always room for more apples, asks for 1/7th of the total apples. They all agree that cutting the apples into wedges is an acceptable measure if only a fraction of the apples can be traded.

Answer: Why do you have friends like this?


Question Two:

Train A is travelling southeast at 63/kmh. Train B is travelling west at 42/kmh. Train A is 72 kilometers away from Train B and is travelling on a track that intersects at Middletown, which equally distant from either train.

Answer: What kind of maniac designs a railway system with an intersection?


Question Three:

An author is 2/3rds of the way towards his writing quota. He realizes that he as 1/3rds to go, but only has 1/6th of the power to make it. His goal is over a thousand words.

This author has started an article that he has no idea how to finish, and no clear exit strategy. In fear of straining the goodwill of the reader, he feels the need to cut the article short and save what he can.