The 5 Types of Math Problems

You use math everyday. Whether you are calculating the tip for your bill, deciding how many square feet of carpet your living room will need, or, of course, subtracting the number of pineapples you have when you give a few to your friend (a totally relevant conundrum for anyone.)

Of course, no one is denying that math is an important part of our life. We wouldn’t have buildings, businesses, or blogs without it. But instead of the vast world of equations and shapes that math teachers preach about, the value of the X-value, many non-math people see another dimension, one of anxiety and confusion. I mean, we call them math problems for a reason.

So, instead of the hundreds of combinations that can be made from thousands of numbers, there are only about 5 types of math problems for non-math people, and I will be taking you through them tonight. Even if you are a math whiz, I can promise you that you’ve seen a couple of these before, and I can bet that you will be seeing them again. (Unless you are out of high school, then you don’t need to worry about literally any of this.)

1. That Word Problem That Escalates Really Quickly

-Have you ever been reading a word problem (If you have four apples, and…), and it suddenly just … (YOU MAKE CIDER ON A TRAIN THAT IS GOING 50 MPH THAT PASSES A MACY’S, HOW OLD IS YOUR BABY COUSIN?) Yeah. You’re not alone. For whatever reason, word problems are not satisfied with just being in math. They have to use numbers in word form to confuse us non-math people even further. In school, I always approached word problems as such: Hmm, a math problem made out of words? I got this. Then promptly cried in a corner when I got to the end of the paragraph-long equation and still had no idea what to do. I’m fairly certain that word problems want to take over the math world. They are pretty insane, after all.

2. The Problem That Goes On Forever

-There’s always that problem that is so complicated that you can’t even figure out where to start. It looks more like an excerpt from pi than a math problem:

43824839284390284392433424 + 3388 – 48394839444 x 33333339

And then there is always the helpful directions on top: Solve.

Solve??? Solve what!? You got yourself into that mess of numbers, math. Get yourself out.

3. The Problem That Is Easy Until You Look At The Possible Answers

-This is probably the most common problem for me. It goes something like this:

Solve. 2 + 2 = ?

Wow, a math problem I know the answer to. Now, I just need to—

A. 134  B. -43  C. 338938  D. 1

And then the panic sets in. I don’t see my answer. What did I do wrong?! This looked so simple…I guess I will just go with A because it has my answer in it…

But really, what is that about? Isn’t math hard enough without trying to pull the carpet out from under me? It already has pulled the wool over my eyes…

4. The Problem That Would Never Apply In Real Life

-Okay, okay. I admit that whenever I see a problem regarding perimeter or area, I must confess that I wish I knew a little bit more about math so I could apply it later in life. Because perimeter and area are sort of relevant. Yet, those problems are typically substituted with ones that ask me to graph a point on my expensive graphing calculator that I will only use for the rest of my senior year in high school and then bury in my underwear drawer.  Really, though. Have you ever been asked about the coordinate plane ever again? How about the quadratic formula? Tan, sin, cosin? No??? What a big, fat surprise. Now, that we’ve established we will never use this stuff, can we stop being tortured with it?

5. That Problem That Isn’t A Problem At All

-Sort of like the word problem, almost all math problems aren’t really problems at all due to their complete absurdity. If we all agree that what a triangle will look like when it is reflected over the y-axis does not really matter, we could be finished with all of this math nonsense. I mean, who CARES when the train will make it into the station if it is traveling 70 miles an hour? No amount of money will make me curious about what will happen when I give 10 avocados to my friends when I have 12 pounds of them left. That’s really the short and long of it, and there is no need to convert the measurements.

In the end, all I can hope is that the people who understand math will help the people who are a few equal signs short of an equation.

Thanks for letting me add my two cents, even though I can’t actually add two cents together.

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