Another poorly written word problem (Part 7)

Textbooks have included the occasional awful problem ever since Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble chiseled their homework on slate tablets while attending Bedrock Elementary. But even with the understanding that there have been children have been doing awful homework problems since the dawn of time (and long before the advent of the Common Core), this one is a doozy.

There’s no sense having a debate about standards for elementary mathematics if textbook publishers can’t construct sentences that can be understood by students (or their parents).



Based only on how the questions are worded, should the answers to #53 and #54 be

5x - 10 < 6x -8 \qquad \hbox{and} \qquad x + 20 < 4x - 1?

Or should they be

5x - 10 < 6(x -8) = 6x - 48 \qquad \hbox{and} \qquad x + 20 < 4(x - 1) = 4x -4?

My answer: I have no idea. An argument could be made for either interpretation. And if a problem can be read two different ways by reasonable readers, then it should never be published in a textbook.

Leave a comment


  1. These look like riddles from a Victorian puzzle book.
    Some commas are in order here.
    Were the previous 51 questions all good? Hard to believe.

  1. Another Poorly Written Word Problem: Index | Mean Green Math

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