Friday, February 06, 2004


This is the sample math question for the fourth-grade 2002 MEAP test:

Callie and her brother are taking a bus to visit their grandfather on Saturday. They have the weekday schedule below. Callie remembers on the weekends: There are no even numbered busses, and busses leave 20 minutes later than on the weekdays.


Bus #1 6:30 am

Bus #2 7:50 am

Bus #3 9:10 am

Bus #4 10:30 am

Bus #5 11:50 am

Bus #6 1:10 pm

Bus #7 2:30 pm

Bus #8 3:50 pm

What are all the times the bus will leave on Saturday?

I have so many questions! Like, why Callie doesn't have the correct bus schedule in front of her to begin with? What if the busses are late? Should the answers be in standard or Daylight-Savings Time? Where are Callie's parents? Can't they drive her to grandfather's house? Shouldn't they all go and visit as a family, or are they sending the kids to sweeten up Grandpappy before he kicks the bucket?

Questions, questions, questions.

I'm going to answer this MEAP question with a story-problem of my own. Four intelligent adults board a train bound to Berlin. They read the train schedule and board the correct railway car on the correct train at the correct time in the correct station. Despite their planning and best intentions, they wake up the next morning and find themselves not in Belin, but in Copenhagen! What the hell happened and what are they going to do about it?

True story, this one. The answer was simple. The four intelligent, though now bewildered adults shrugged and said "Copenhagen it is!" Having the good fortune of possessing Eurail passes, it didn't matter much where they ended up. Hoping to tour the Carlsberg Brewery (strictly for research to compare with the earlier Heineken *hiccup*-fest), the four were disappointed to discover there were no tours that day. Never to be deterred, they tromped off to visit the Little Mermaid (who was currently with head, rather than without), and spent the rest of the day at Tivoli Gardens.

Several other railway passengers, finding themselves in the wrong city and country without benefit of Eurail passes were quickly acquainted with the local police and railway authorities.

So Callie, don't worry about the bus schedule. It will get here when it gets here. Sometimes, even armed with a reasonable amount of intelligence and all the careful planning in the world, you still somehow wind up in Denmark. Just be sure to have a Eurail pass and a Plan B.

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