Like many a humanities graduate before me, the thought of doing maths homework feels akin to being forced to babysit a resentful tarantula.
I couldn’t cope with it back in Year 9, and I certainly can’t deal with it now as a twenty-something who goes cross-eyed dividing up a straightforward drinks bill.
However, I never thought an eight-year-old’s homework would leave me – and the rest of the internet – so thoroughly baffled…
Perplexed Mama Dusty Sappington uploaded an image of her eight-year-old daughter Izzy’s mind-boggling maths homework, captioned, ‘this third grade math problem’.
The question was certainly not one you would expect to find in a young child’s school-bag:
Janell has 15 marbles. She lost some of them. How many does Janell have now?
Look Janelle, maybe you just count those marbles yourself because this is plain weird…
Understandably, poor Izzy – who struggles with dyslexia – answered the mindbender with a simple question-mark, a choice many of us would have plumped for.
The homework did not include any additional instructions, and there were no multiple choice options.
After posting the mystifying marble fiasco on Reddit, Dusty set the following challenge for Redditors:
If someone can answer this correctly, my child will be done with her homework!!
The challenge was accepted, and a number of Reddit frequenters put their boffin caps on to puzzle this problem out.
Although a number answer wasn’t given, some alternative logical suggestions were given, with many sympathetic people noting this wasn’t a fair question to give such a young child.
Speaking with The Huffington Post, Dusty explained she posted the question ‘mainly for amusement’:
Being the mother of a third-grader and a fifth-grader, I have seen a lot of homework over the years that has our family laughing at the absurdities, scratching our heads and relying too much on Google.
Going forward, Dusty hopes the story will serve as a reminder of the importance of education and the need for teachers to receive a fair pay:
I hope this adds more fuel to the fire to better fund our educational systems.
"Public education is our greatest pathway to opportunity in America"
– Michelle Obama
— Advocate for BASD (@basdproudparent) November 3, 2017
Dusty and Izzy (and Janelle’s) story comes just days after Bill Gates announced he will invest $1.7 billion in American schools over the course of the next five years.
This investment will concentrate on three key areas: public schools, ‘big bets’, and charter schools.
A portion of funding will also support local school networks to work collaboratively to identify and tackle issues specific to both their region and student population.
During a keynote address at the Council of the Great City Schools conference in Cleveland, Gates made the following statement:
We believe this kind of approach — where groups of schools have the flexibility to propose the set of approaches they want — will lead to more impactful and durable systemic change that is attractive enough to be widely adopted by other schools.
This is a critical problem across the education sector, and we believe that charters have the flexibility to help the field solve this problem.
Did you manage to finish Izzy’s homework? Be honest…
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.