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Dear Mitch,

I am a middle school math teacher in Bentonville, Arizona. I usually try to do a tie-in lesson with major holidays of each season. I just finished Halloween, and this year I actually tried the one you recommended with the 'evil rulers' getting those poor pumpkins, and, Boy, let me tell you, the students got quite a kick out of that. (As you suggested, I really went over the top with the Halloween blood where the rulers "stabbed" the pumpkins... Sincere thanks on that one! But Thanksgiving somehow seems a little less open for fun and surprises with math lessons, so are there any interesting problems you would recommend?


Mr. McB-----ra

Bentonville, Arizona

P.S. Everyone in our department prints out your responses to questions and we take turns putting them up in the math lab. You've entertained us and opened our minds to new approaches. We thank you for that, and next year we have decided to work into the budget one of your workshops, which the folks in other districts have raved about.


Dear Mr. McB-----ra,

Some day, if we do meet, can you teach me how to pronounce the dashes in your name?

Okay, calm down. It wasn't that funny. Seriously calm down.

Now, I would like to thank you for all that unnecessary praise. Again, it is not necessary, but since you took the time, we'll send you a free tee shirt. (Just email us the size and color you'd like. Then, just in case, it would be great if you could include a list of your next ten choices.

For Thanksgiving there are all kinds of fun activities for students -- kindergarten through 12th-- believe it or not, and I will try to keep them coming between now and the holiday. For now, though, here are a couple of classic word problems which I have adopted for Turkey Day. I hope you like them.

1. For Thanksgiving, a neighborhood grocery store in Clayton, Missouri was giving customers one free pound of stuffing with every 5 pounds the customer buys. Mrs. McFergass Donahaus Rebitz McIntire III entered the store. She was well-known in the area for one thing : she enjoyed her stuffing. Oh, she'd invite you to dinner if you were in need of a place to go but don't touch her stuffing – at least not if you'd like to ever get another invitation...

So, that day when Mrs. McFergass Donahaus Rebitz McIntire III entered the store she bought only stuffing and left the store with 30 pounds of the stuff (stuffing). If she spent $75.00, how many dollars does each pound of stuffing sell for?

(A) 2

(B) 3

(C) 6

(D) 9

(E) 20

(HINT: Think of this as a ratio question....)

2. In the 8th grade social studies community service class, the students were required to either cook a turkey or a make a soup; the food when then be distributed to local families who otherwise would have very little for the holiday. If a student wished to, he or she could make both a turkey and a soup, but if a student didn't make either then he/she would not be released from the darkened classroom, alone, until the holiday weekend was over.

23 students each made a soup, 27 students each made a turkey. If there were 41 students in all, how many students made a soup but not a turkey?

Within the next two days, a major hint will appear here that would make this somewhat tricky problem as easy as pie. Oh, you will like it.

Okay that's two questions. A third one, which is one of my all-time favorites, will appear here sometime in the next two days. So stay tuned....

Hope this helps and provides some engaging material for teaching and learning.

Until next time,