Old Math Problems

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, September 6, 1911: Have to study in the evenings now, instead of sitting around, reading or doing nothing. I got stuck on an algebra problem this evening. Don’t know whether I’ll get it yet or not. I know how to work the problems of that kind but this is a bulky one.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I suppose Grandma forgot some math over the summer.

Here are some problems in the first chapter of an algebra book that was published in 1911. Maybe the problems Grandma was struggling with were similar to these.

  1. A bicycle and suit cost $54. How much did each cost, if the bicycle cost twice as much as the suit?
  2. Two boys dug 160 clams. If one dig 3 times as many as the other, how many did each dig?
  3. The average length of a fox’s life is twice that of a rabbit’s. If the sum of these averages is 21 years, what is the average length of a rabbit’s life?
  4. The water and steam in a boiler occupied 120 cubic feet of space and the water occupied twice as much space as the steam. How many cubic feet did each occupy?
  5. Canada and Alaska together annually export furs worth 3 million dollars. If Canada exports 5 times as much as Alaska, find the value of Alaska’s export.
  6. The poultry and dairy products of this country amount to 520 million dollars a year, or 4 times the value of the potato crop. What is the value of the potato crop?

First Year Algebra (1911) by William J. Milne

For additional 1911 math problems see these previous posts:

Odd, Unusual, and Strange Math Problems

1911 Algebra Problems: The Lusitania and Molasses

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