Mommy Math: Real-World Word Problems



Elementary school math problems can make seemingly well-adjusted, educated parents question their intelligence. I know because I’ve had to watch youtube videos on the latest math trends just to help my second grader. I was no mathematical genius, but second grade! And it’s not just the parents who dry-heaved in the girl’s locker room before pre-calc tests who wring their hands at mountain math, make-ten strategy and rocket math; I’ve asked. Mathematical minds have nail marks in their palms from clenching their fists as their little ones muscle through word problems about fruit and cookies and gold fish.

Maybe we parents could embrace homework time if we could see the real-world connections. What if word problems indoctrinated our children, so we wouldn’t have to worry so much about things like promiscuity and teen pregnancy when our little ones aren’t so little anymore?

I know we could teen curb pregnancy if we had local teens help elementary school students with their homework for one week straight, but coupled with word problems that capture parenting truths? Money!

I’m just brainstorming here, but I’m thinking something like…

Problem #1: A woman who formerly showered at least once a day, used make-up and read magazines like Vogue and InStyle just had a baby. How many times will she wash her face in the first month of her child’s life?

Answer: Maybe 3—once because she discovered crusty spit up on her cheek, once because she tried to scrub away her dark circles and once because she wasn’t sure if it was chocolate or feces on her chin.

Problem #2: A new mom read all 597 pages of What to Expect When You’re Expecting…twice. How many times will she feel completely incompetent and totally unprepared during the first year of her child’s life?

Answer: This is a trick question. No one can count that high.

Problem #3: A mother has 4 children. One child is in second grade and has to read 20-30 minutes each night in addition to completing math, spelling and social studies homework. Another child is a kindergartener learning to read and write. It takes the kindergartener about 45 minutes to write three sentences. The third child is a toddler who needs Mommy right this second. The fourth child is in utero kicking the mother from the inside. How many hours of homework time before the mother loses her mind?

Answer: One. One hour, though it feels like an eternity.

Problem #4: A mother successfully graduated from high school, college and graduate school. How many second-grade math strategies will it take to end her?

Answer:  cue maniacal laughter

Problem #5: A woman has a career. In addition to a career, she has children. She also has a husband. If they would stop playing phone tag, she has friends, too. Among other things, she is a sister, a daughter, an aunt. How many of these things does she feel like she is “good” at?

Answer: Zero. The answer is zero. And what is this “having it all” business anyway?

Problem #6: It took two hours to clean a child’s bedroom for company. How long does it take the child to restore his room to its former nightmarish glory?

Answer: 23 seconds.

Problem #7: There are 24 hours in a day. A woman uses 5 hours to sleep, 9 hours to work, 1 hour to prepare dinner, 1 hour to do a load of laundry and clean up after meals, 2 hours to get children ready for and attend practice, 1 hour for her kids’ homework, 1 hour for bedtime (ha! it’s more like 2), 1 hour to clean up that mysterious stickiness on the floor, 35 seconds to have a conversation with someone close to her age, 1 hour to grocery shop, 1 hour to prepare a Pinterest snack for her daughter’s half birthday celebration at school, and 7 seconds to pee . How many hours are left in the day?

Answer: Negative. Negative hours.

Problem #8: A mom made sure her children had a snack and were occupied before she put her phone to her ear to make a 5-minute call. How many times did her children interrupt her conversation?

Answer: 324 times.

So their math skills may not improve, but I think a few years of problems like this might make them think twice before getting a motel room on prom night, and I haven’t even written the STD or sexting word problems.


Note: Feel free to replace woman, mommy, mom with man, daddy or dad because let’s be real.

16 comments for “Mommy Math: Real-World Word Problems

  1. Debbie
    October 23, 2014 at 5:59 am

    This is amazing. I want to start this “Math Will Make You Wait” program at our high school right now. (-: I love you and the way you see life. The negative hours turn to positive when they learn to drive and start doing homework sans help. I promise. Probably. Either that or I just can’t add right….

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      October 23, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      “Math Will Make You Wait”! Yes! Great title! Try it in your schools and let me know how it goes. You handle the complex math concepts that terrify me, and I’ll keep working on the elementary level 🙂

  2. October 23, 2014 at 8:37 am

    This is spot on. My favorite was my child’s 3rd grade challenge math using waffits and zamboids to create statements of logic. I used to be smart – I aced a college logic course – but this made me cry.

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      October 23, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      Oh no! You cried! I can totally relate. My palms start to sweat and every math fear I’ve ever had comes flooding back until I want to run screaming from the house. Also, I have no idea what those terms are that you used in your comment. Now I want to cry.

  3. Kate @ Did That Just Happen?
    October 23, 2014 at 9:28 am

    I am not ashamed to admit that by the time Mr. T was in third grade he was on his own for Math. Can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to put an equation into Google! LOL.

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      October 23, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      I’m going to have to hire a tutor for me :/

  4. Kathleen Gallo
    October 23, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Wow! In all your CRAZY, BUSY life your mind just comes up with these incredible, funny insights about life! I love to read your thoughts!! When I was doing all that part of my life, I was just DOING it, never thought about my view of it – I was just DOING it!!
    Keep thinking and writing!! Love you!

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      October 23, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you! I think you might be biased 😉

  5. Vinnie
    October 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

    So. freaking. accurate.

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      October 23, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      I’m so glad you can relate 🙂

  6. October 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Brilliance! Do we dare hope such real-life word problems might also encourage our little dears to show a bit more appreciation for our efforts? (I’m imagining a kid hollering, “I didn’t ask to be born!” as I write this.)

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      October 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you! In a dream world–yes! I imagine every homework session ending in a shower of appreciation 🙂 Likely, though, “I didn’t ask to be born” would be more like it!

  7. October 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Take that, Common Core.

    • girlalwaysinterrupted
      October 23, 2014 at 6:14 pm


  8. October 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Amen! Other people’s kids are amazing contraception. 😉

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