Alexandria Jones and the Eighty-Yard Drive


[Photo by West Point Public Affairs.]

Alexandria Jones pulled the last sheet of chocolate chip cookies from the oven and inhaled deeply. Mmm! Perfect. And just in time — Mom was calling her to the car. She slid the cookies into a plastic bowl but left the lid off so the steam could escape. The Jones family was going to meet Uncle Will and Alex’s cousin Sam for a tail-gate picnic before the big football game.

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Alex Deals Out Equations

Miscellaneous Playing Cards
Image by incurable_hippie via Flickr

Looking around the room, Alex saw kids and parents moving from one table to another. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the Homeschool Math Carnival. She had six junior-high and high school students at her table, waiting while she shuffled her deck of cards.

“Okay,” she said. “These are Math Cards. I took out the face cards, so we just have numbers.”

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Cousin Sam’s 15 Challenge

Uncle Will drove in from the tree farm to drop off Alex’s cousin, Sam, so he could go to the Homeschool Math Carnival.

“Hey, Sam,” Alex said. “What’s in the sack?”

Sam smiled. “A secret puzzle.”

“Aw, c’mon,” Leon whined. “We’ll be busy with our own games at the carnival. Can’t you show us now?”

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Alexandria Jones and the Mathematical Carnival

Alexandria JonesMaria Jones hung up the phone and collapsed at the kitchen table. She buried her head in her hands and groaned. Alex looked up from her game of Solitaire.

“Let me guess,” she said. “Can’t-Say-No Syndrome, again?”

Mrs. Jones nodded. “This time I volunteered to plan an activity for next month’s homeschool group meeting.”

Leon wandered in and pulled an apple from the fruit bowl. “Ha!” he said. “She means she volunteered us to plan an activity, right?”

Mrs. Jones smiled. “That’s my motto: When in doubt, delegate!”

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Math History Tidbits: The Battling Bernoullis

July 27th is Alex’s birthday. She shares it with Johann Bernoulli, an irascible mathematician from the late 17th century. This coincidence intrigued her enough that she wrote a research paper on Johann and his mathematical brother, titled “Jeering Jacob and Jealous Johann.”

Of course, to make the alliteration work, she had to mispronounce Johann’s name — but she figured he kinda deserved that. Read the historical tidbits below to find out why one writer said the Bernoulli brothers were “the kind of people who give arrogance a bad name.”*

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Probability Issue: Hints and Answers

Remember the Math Adventurer’s Rule: Figure it out for yourself! Whenever I give a problem in an Alexandria Jones story, I will try to post the answer soon afterward. But don’t peek! If I tell you the answer, you miss out on the fun of solving the puzzle. So if you haven’t worked these problems yet, go back to the original posts. If you’re stuck, read the hints. Then go back and try again. Figure them out for yourself — and then check the answers just to prove that you got them right.

This post offers hints and answers to puzzles from these blog posts:

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