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

**Thursday, November 23, 1911:** Am working at my algebra in the evening so I can make a better mark than I did last month. If it isn’t any better I will be beyond all hope.

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

In October Grandma struggled mightily with algebra—the topic was least common multiples (L.C.M.) and highest common factors (H.C.F.)—and she ended up getting a 68% on the exam.

I’m not sure what Grandma was working on in November—but in one early 20th century algebra book—*Durrell’s School Algebra*, the chapter after L.C.M. and H.C.F. was Fractions.

The book says:

In algebra, a fraction is often useful in expressing a general formula

Here are a couple of exercises from the book:

1. If three boys weigh *a*, *b*, *c* pounds respectively, what is their average weight?

2. If sugar is worth *a* cents a pound, how many pounds can be obtained in exchange for *b* pounds of butter worth c cents a pound?

3. If coal is worth *c* dollars a ton, how many tons can be obtained in exchange for *f* bushels of wheat worth *h* cents a bushel and for *w* bushels of corn worth *y* cents a bushel?

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Too many unknowns!!

The answer? Alphabet soup!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, it’s an alphabet soup!

I don’t have an answer key, but I think that the answers are:

1. (a + b + c)/3

2. ab/c

3. fc/h + wc/y