A Really Bad Math Problem

Below is a really bad math problem a friend’s child was given. The problem comes from College Preparatory Mathematics’ (CPM) Foundations for Algebra.

Belinda has four envelopes with the letter m written on the outside of each one. She also has $30 in her pocket. Write an expression to represent how much money Belinda has. After Belinda opens all the envelopes, she finds she has only $10 left. Assuming there was the same amount in each envelope, what amount was in each envelope?

Here was my answer.

The envelopes each contain 1 oz of magical fairy dust (therefore the same “amount” was in each envelope, amount being 1oz of fairy dust).

The first envelope has dust from a generous fairy who thinks you can just throw money at problems and they’ll fix themselves. He gave Belinda $10,000 in the hopes that she’ll somehow magically get a proper education and be capable of entering the career of her choice.

The second envelope has dust from a fairy who prefers to pretend that there are no problems in the world and that we should trust the experts to find the solutions because they’re experts and we aren’t. He squeaks and hides in a corner of the envelope.

The third envelope contains dust from an arrogant narcissistic fairy who thinks humans like Belinda exist to serve him. He laughs uncontrollably as he takes Belinda’s $30 and the $10,000 the generous fairy gave her.

The fourth envelope contains dust from a shrewd and wise fairy who thinks Belinda and all humans are a dolts. He teams up with the third fairy, wipes Belinda’s her memory of her encounters with fairies, applies for and receives a grant from the NSF to build a math program no reasonable person would follow, creates this unreasonable program and markets it with catch phrases like “builds greater conceptual understanding” , “student centered learning”, and “builds 21st Century skills”,  sells the program to school districts around the country and makes millions.  In a rare fit of guilt, he gives Belinda $10 to make up for dooming her and all of human-kind with his idiotic math program.

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

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One Response to “A Really Bad Math Problem”

  1. Ed Says:

    Here’s my solution:

    4m + 30 = 10
    m = -20/4 or -$5

    Therefore each envelope contains a bill for $5 rather than a $5 bill.

    Of course opening the envelopes doesn’t make the money disappear; only paying the bills does that.
    I bet they were bills from her math tutor…


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