Word Problems, by Anna Zumbro

1. Yesterday, Pilar spent 62 minutes on her math homework, 21 minutes on her science homework, 7 minutes in the shower, 5 minutes untangling her curly hair, and 5 seconds applying lip gloss. How much more time did she spend on her homework than on her beauty routine?

2. Pilar tells her best friend Lindsay that she would prefer a boyfriend who reads, as opposed to a boyfriend who plays sports. Each week, on average, Juan reads 116 pages and plays tennis for 4 hours. In contrast, Ricky reads an average of 31 pages each week and spends a cumulative 22 minutes running from his neighbor’s dog. Based on this data, which boy would Pilar prefer, and why? Show your work.

3. Pilar’s resting heart rate is 82 beats per minute. When she sees Miguel in her third-period math class, her heart rate increases to 97 beats per minute. By what percentage does her heart rate increase when she sees Miguel?

4. Pilar discovers an anonymous note inserted through the ventilation slits on her locker. The note reads Hey Pilar I think u r cute and causes her heart to beat at 112 beats per minute in the moments after she reads it. During lunch, Pilar and Lindsay compare the handwriting sample to what they know of various boys’ penmanship. They estimate there is a 2 in 3 chance that Miguel wrote the note, a 1 in 9 chance that Ricky wrote it, and a 1 in 18 chance that Juan was the author. Using their estimates, calculate the chance that someone other than Miguel, Ricky, or Juan wrote the note, and simplify.

5. A train leaves Cleveland at 5:30 a.m., travels 482 miles, and reaches New York at 6:15 p.m. the same day. A second train leaves New York at 7:00 a.m. along the same track and reaches Cleveland at 9:05 p.m. that evening. Asked to calculate the time at which the two trains meet, Pilar answers “Miguel.” Show why Pilar is wrong.

6. Pilar and Lindsay spend 47 minutes chatting online. This results in Pilar’s decision to write a note to Miguel reading I like you. Do you like me? Check yes, no, maybe. She passes the note to Juan, who smirks and passes it to Miguel. He responds to the note by folding it into a paper airplane, sending it soaring across the math classroom. The airplane travels for 6.8 meters at a speed of 0.9 meters per second. Pilar runs out the door in tears 7.2 seconds after seeing the pink, sticker-encrusted love letter fly from Miguel’s hand. Will it land before or after she leaves the classroom?

7. Slumped in a corner next to the water fountain, Pilar glances up once every 0.7 minutes. She looked up 13.2 seconds ago. Calculate how long it will be before she sees Ricky, who is checking on her at the teacher’s request, working up the courage to tell Pilar how he feels about her, and preparing to ask her a question to which, for once, she does not immediately have an answer.


Anna Zumbro lives in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ruthless Peoples Magazine, Fantasy Scroll, Plasma Frequency, and other publications.


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