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Dear Mitch,

I appreciated the questions you provided for Valentine's Day Math, and was wondering which holiday, if any, you were planning on addressing next. (I noticed you did not post any questions for Susan B. Anthony's birthday, which was the day after Valentine's Day, nor did you mention Presidents' Day, which is Monday, and which of course is a day that most schools in the U.S. have off. So, as a middle school and high school maths teacher in the United States (though originally from England), I was just wondering.

Thank you,

Mrs. C.

Just outside Bangor, Maine


Dear Mrs. C.,

You are correct that I did not address the anniversary of Susan B. Anthony, one of the very important figures of American history. I had planned to do so, as a number of people had written to us requesting such material, but things have gotten hectic here and we do let some things pass... But there's always next year! Presidents' Day I did not plan on addressing, figuring there were probably so many other websites that already were going to do a fine job that there wouldn't be anyone in need of more.

The next big day to me, is Wednesday, February 20th. It is the anniversary of the day in 1872 on which the first machine for the manufacturing of toothpicks was patented. And to you, as a teacher in the state of Maine, I am certain that this is at least as meaningful as it might be to our visitors from other states. After all, as you probably know, until recently, Maine was the 'toothpick capital of the world', producing the vast majority of the world's toothpicks. Even though the two gentlemen who patented the machine, Silas Noble and J.P. Cooley, lived in Massachusetts, the bulk of the world's toothpicks were not only manufactured in Maine for a long, long, time, but the first American to manufacture toothpicks (without that patented machine) was Charles Foster of Strong, Maine. As it happens, Maine stopped making toothpicks on April 29, 2003.

Foster began by making them by hand, but soon the growing demand had him coming up with machines to do much of the work.

There is a commonly known and standard quantity of logs (usually to be used as firewood) called a "cord". It is a pile of four-foot-long logs stacked four feet high and eight feet from beginning of pile to the end. 7 1/2 million toothpicks can be made from one cord of wood.

1. How many toothpicks can be made from half a cord of wood?

2. How many toothpicks can be made from two cords of wood?

3. How many toothpicks can be made from five cords of wood?

4. How many toothpicks can be made from 7 1/2 cords of wood?

I hope this helps and provides some interesting fun on Wednesday, February 20th, the anniversary of the day the machine designed to make toothpicks was patented!

Good luck,