The Math Contest

There were lots and lots of kids taking the state math test as part of a math contest.

I grabbed a test booklet and a pencil. I sat down. This is what I saw in the test booklet:

Problem 1. Three runners are running
a ten-mile race. Runner 1 runs a mile
in six minutes, Runner 2 runs a mile in
seven minutes. Runner 3 runs a mile in
ten minutes. After five miles, Runner 1
and Runner 2 sit down to have lunch.
Runner 1 spends fifteen minutes eating
her lunch. Runner 2 spends ten minutes
eating her lunch. Runner 3 keeps
running. Who wins the race?

A lot of time has passed since I took a math class. I had to sit and think. It took me ten minutes, but in the end I did get Problem 1. (Runner 1 wins.)

After I did Problem 1, I was feeling proud of myself. Then I looked at the kids sitting next to me. They had finished lots of problems in the time it had taken me to do one. One of them was on Problem 10. One was on Problem 15.

I looked at Problem 2. There were numbers and letters all over the place. You had to add. You had to subtract. You had to divide. You had to take the square root of a number. I kept at it for ten minutes. But I got mixed up. At last I wrote so much that my pencil broke! The problem was just too much for me.

I closed the test booklet and handed it back to Dr. Maud Chang.

“What did you think?” she asked.

“I think I didn’t do so well,” I said. “I did Problem 1, but Problem 2 was too hard for me.”

By this point I was not feeling proud of myself. But Dr. Chang was sweet. She smiled and patted me on the back. Then she said, “You should be proud you got one. This is a hard test.”

Dr. Chang and I sat down to chat.

Dr. Chang and I sat down to chat.

‘The Kids taking the test are sixteen or seventeen,” she explained. “There are 60 of them. There are 100 problems on the test.”

“Are all of the problems as hard as the two I did?”
Dr. Chang smiled. “Well, yes. The problems get harder and harder as you go on.”
“I see!”

So, if Problem 1 and Problem 2 were that hard, then just think of what the rest must be like!

“How much time do the kids get?” I asked.
“180 minutes.”
“And who will grade the tests?”

“] will,” said Dr. Chang. “We should have the winner's name by the end of next week.”
“Good,” I said. “Let me know who wins.”