Puzzler Number One or”Stump the Chump!:” Solve These Word Problems from 1748

Yesterday I was looking at the three editions of Arithmetic Made Familiar and Easy to Young Gentlemen and Ladies, the second volume in The Circle of  the Sciences published by the famous 18th-century English children’s book publisher, John Newbery. Chronology, geography, grammar, handwriting, logic, poetry, and rhetoric were all considered essential to a well-rounded education by John Locke and all these subjects were covered by volumes in The Circle.

Arithmetic Made Familiar and Easy is written in the form of a catechism, or a series of questions and answers, as were all the volumes.  Contemporary educators considered the catechism, a kind of conversation, was a more lively way to communicate information than a lecture. The volume compilers tried other way engage their captive audience of pupils: the one responsible for Arithmetic Made Familiar and Easy offered a description of an abacus and used change ringing as an example of a arithmetical progression.  To teach practical arithmetic, there were instructions for adding up an invoice for purchases of apples, gingerbread, marbles, and oranges or for calculating the costs of x number of yards of lace a fashionable miss could check her tradesman’s bill for mistakes or overcharges.

On to the puzzlers, extracted from Arithmetic Made Familiar.   The first is in verse and was  been a golden oldie, having been in circulation at least since 1708, where it appeared as an example of “vulgar arithmetic” in The Ladies Diary or Womens Almanack.

When first the Marriage-Knot was ty’d

Betwixt my Wife and me,

My Age did hers as far exceed

As three times three does three:

But after ten and half ten Years

We Man and Wife had been,

Her Age came up as near to mine,

As eight is to sixteen.

Now try the second puzzler:

A Man overtaking a Maid who was driving a Flock of Geese, said to her, Good-morrow, Sweetheart, whether are you going with your 99 Geese?  Sir, said she, you mistake the Number; for if I had as many more, and half as many more and one fourth Part as many, then I should have but 99.  The Question is, how many Geese she had?

Readers are invited to submit solutions to one or both of the puzzlers in the comments. Staff members of Car Talk, you are ineligible to enter this competition! The answers will be posted next week.


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