The Real-World Math Test

My job for an education company brings me into contact with lots of math test questions for public school students. A lot of it is stuff like “which of these graphs is a function?” and “Malik wants to paint the sides of a regular tetrahedron. If the radius is 3 inches, what is the surface area he will have to paint?” But occasionally I run into a question that seems uncommonly real-life-oriented, even genuinely useful. And it made me think: maybe there should be a math test to check on your ability to do the math you really need.

So here it is.

The Real-World Math Test

1. Marcia has $1.83 in change. She wants a package of napkins that’s $1.59. If the local sales tax rate is 9%, can she buy the napkins?

2. Dave has a stack of 50 dimes on his desk. He also has a library book that’s exactly 6 weeks overdue. If the library charges 15 cents a day in late fees, does Dave have enough dimes?

3. Brian wrote a 56,596-word novel in November. He didn’t write anything at all on the 23rd-26th. How many words per day is that?

4. Anne got a $5.95 burger, $1.95 fries, and water. Bruce got the chicken parmesan for $8.50 and a $1.50 soda. Celia got a salad for $7.95 and water. Dario busted his gut with an $18.95 porterhouse and $4 pint of beer. The waiter can’t split the bill. Dario only has a credit card, Celia has only ones, and Anne wants Bruce to give her a buck because he ate so many of her fries. Who pays how much, to whom, and what should each of them contribute for the tip?

5. Amazon UK has Perry the Platypus bobblehead dolls for £12.49, and shipping to America is £2.95. Molded Marsupials USA will sell the bobbleheads for $21.95 each and shipping is free. Based on the exchange rate, what’s the better deal?

(Artist's conception by Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz)

6. Yoenis is moving to America from Cuba. He likes to tell all the ladies that his biceps are 60 centimeters around, and then prove it. But he has to convert his measurements to English for the American chicks. What diameter are his biceps in inches?

7. Betty has a really awful washing machine. Whenever she puts her husband Don’s new clothes in for the first time, they shrink 5%. If Don’s trousers need to be 32 inches waist by 30 inches in length, what size should he buy?

8. Madison filled the tank of her 2009 Honda Civic when the odometer said 40598 and now she’s filling up again at 40952. How far did she get on one tank of gas?

9. Radovan’s phone company allows him 500 text messages per month (30 days). Over the first two days he has a great big argument with Slavomir and uses up 139 texts. Now how many texts per day can Radovan use for the rest of the month?

10. Add up your monthly income and all mandatory expenses: rent, insurance, utilities, internet/cable, gasoline, etc. Create a budget. How much spending money do you have next month?



Filed under Reality

2 responses to “The Real-World Math Test

  1. Ha ha these are great! Number 4 is definitely one of the most vexing math problems that I confront regularly (only because I don’t like to confront number 10). Just get Dario to pay for all of it and everyone owes him a beer or two at the bar.

  2. Like Carina, number 4’s the most common. My first thought, however, was, “If only it were that simple!” After all, we have to include tax and tip…

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