Sunday, February 05, 2006

Two "story problems" for your arithmetic assignment

Years ago I read an article reporting that a new park in Nebraska, open to the public at no cost, was facing tough times and might have to close for lack of operating funds. It took about $50,000 to keep the archaeological site open in the warmer months as “Ashfall State Park.” The article reported on the nature of the digging going on at the site and concluded by telling that at least 50,000 people had visited the place each summer since it had opened.

Let’s see now: It cost $50,000 a year to keep the park public. Admission was free. More than 50,000 people visited each year. But it might have to close for lack of funds. Can anyone come up with a solution from the facts of the article?

Of course there is an admission fee today. When I visited, perhaps three years ago, the cost was five dollars per car. The site seemed to be thriving. I doubt anyone who had got in free during the first couple of years the park was open has refused to visit now because of the fee. It seems to me to be a good example of a solution to a problem appearing in the description of the problem.

Here is a much more recent “arithmetic story problem” describing a situation that has an explanation imbedded within the report. An Associated Press article by Lolita C. Baldor appeared in the paper I read on January 26. Baldor reported a study by the Rand’s National Defense Research Institute of reservists called to active duty. They found 72 percent of the troops surveyed made more money while on war duty than they did in their civilian jobs. The newspaper had headlined the story, “Most reservists make more on duty than off.”

The article also reported that Rand senior economist Jacob Alex Klerman said the researchers are “still working to understand why this differs so dramatically from reports about families struggling to get by when a primary wage-earner goes to war.”

Shall we clear it up for him? Seventy–two percent, or “most reservists,” making more money means that, as was also reported, “28 percent of the reservists lost money when they were called up.”

Baldor did not spell it out further, but it seems obvious. For every one hundred reservists called to active duty, twenty-eight lose money. For every thousand reservists called up, two hundred eighty families receive smaller paychecks. And how many thousand reservists have been called up? More than fifty thousand? If so, it means that across America at least 14,000 families have faced or are facing financial hardships! And counting. Some might call that a disgrace. You and I, for example.

But Klerman wants additional study to figure out why there are reports of reservist families struggling when the wage-earner is called to war, since 72 percent make more on duty than off. Let’s hope the Rand people read Baldor’s article and then do the math.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You point out typical governmental thinking.

2/06/2006 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One long time weak story problem solver sees the math clearly here. Why so difficult for others to see? Not a math problem perhaps?

2/08/2006 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yoiu point out an obvious look that the officials haven't seen.

2/08/2006 9:57 PM  
Anonymous DEERSLAYER said...

OF COURSE YOU ARE RIGHT, AND I THINK THERE HAVE BEEN MORE THAN FIFTY THOUSAND RESERVISTS CALLED UP. NO WONDER STORIES SURFACE ABOUT RESERVIST FAMILIES FACING FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS WHEN CALLED TO ACTIVE DUTY.

2/12/2006 12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Researchers never were good at accurate math.

2/13/2006 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that sound you hear is my applause.

2/16/2006 10:28 PM  
Anonymous tomtomtommy said...

more administration ignorance!

2/24/2006 4:19 PM  
Anonymous courtingfrog said...

They really only want to conclude what they want to believe.

4/06/2006 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting site... »

3/14/2007 4:16 PM  

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