Question

Dear Mitch,

My teacher put up one of your thanksgiving problems on the board, even though it seems kind of early to be thinking of the holidays already, and he thought it was a pretty cool problem. A lot of the kids did too, but of course not really the kind of cool a teacher thinks this stuff is Anyway, I know he plans on writing in for more, but I was wondering if you could post one today so I could bring it in tomorrow before he even has a chance to run it off. (He's helping another teacher this week with the school play, so he's nuts running around and he's been doing everything like a day or two later than he says he's going to do it.) But don't worry, it's cool, he'd like that I'm writing you myself and he'll probably tell the class how 'enthusiastic' I am. (And that's like his all-time favorite compliment.) I'm serious, it really is.

So would you put another problem up like today?

Thank you, I'll keep checking my computer for it.

Sincerely,

'Local Math-Boy',

North Kansas City, Missouri

Answer

Dear Mr. M-Boy,

Sure, no problem. Here is a VERY famous question. I just gave it a little holiday twist and tried to make it a faster read than the way it is sometimes worded.

Here it is:

On Thanksgiving, Jebo-Jebo drove straight from his new apartment to his dear old mom's house at an average speed of 40 miles per hour and then, as he skidded to a dramatic holiday stop at her driveway, he realized he'd left his oven on high. He also realized that, for some reason which he could not recall, he'd piled a dozen turpentine-soaked rags on the countertop under that oven. Immediately, he traveled back from his dear old mom's house to his new apartment at an average speed of 60 miles per hour to see if anything could be salvaged.

What was the car's average speed for the round trip, in miles per hour?

(A) 45

(B) 48

(C) 50

(D) 52

(E) 54

Hint: if the obviously 'correct answer' was truly the right one, the problem would never have made it into the category of 'famous ones'. Does that help?

I hope it does, and I'll post the answer this week or early next week, depending upon whether the emails seem to be asking for it ASAP or if people actually like the mild suspense.

Hope you enjoy working it out. It truly is not difficult if you think more than you calculate. (Or at least if you think a bit *before* you do your calculations!)

Back soon,

Mitch