Monthly Archives: October 2013

The “Not a Math Person” Myth

I tutor people from time to time, usually in math. A lot of people do not have some very basic math skills, and yet, it is not really all that difficult to learn them if you think that you can.

Unfortunately, many people think that they can not.

This recent article says it much better and at length There’s one key difference between kids who excel at math and those who don’t.

If you have trouble with math, please do not give up on it. You can learn it.


Odd Language #20: Misplaced Modifier

From Kamloops Daily News, 2002-05-10, article “Man stabbed in fight unable to talk to police”, final paragraph: “RCMP Sgt. Randy Brown said police have been unable to interview the man who was stabbed because of his condition.”

The issue: misplaced modifier in the last paragraph. The man was not stabbed because of his condition. Corrected: “RCMP Sgt. Randy Brown said that, because of the stabbed man’s condition, police have been unable to interview him.”

Puzzle #23: Leaves

Ah, fall! There are some leaves on a tree. They are red, orange, yellow, or green, and possibly, more than one of the colours.

There are 500 red leaves, 1500 orange leaves, 2000 yellow leaves, and 2000 green leaves.

Given that 1) all red leaves are also orange, 2) one-half of the yellow leaves are also green, and 3) one-half of the orange leaves are also yellow, answer the following:

  • What is the maximum number of leaves possible? The minimum?
  • What is the maximum number of leaf colour combinations possible? The minimum?
  • Is it possible for there to be a leaf that is all four colours?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #21 Solution: Logic Problem

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

Unexpected Ghettos

Sometimes, we limit our intereactions with others without even realising it. We create ghettos for ourselves.

In 2003, I had a co-operative education job in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. Frequently, after work, I would stop at a Chinese restaurant and pick up some juicy buns. It was as close as I could get to the type of buns I had enjoyed when I was in China the year before. The restaurant was not in a secluded place; it was right across the street from the main bus exchange for Richmond. And yet, and yet, in all the times I went there, I only once saw another non-Chinese customer. He was with a party of about eight Chinese.

I have lived in Kamloops, British Columba, Canada for about ten years, and there are many places that I have not been to. Sometimes, tourists see neat things that the locals never bother with. I have yet to go to the museum. Why I never have, I do not know.

What might you be missing out because you just never go there for whatever reason?

Puzzle #22: Mystery Number

There is a unique four-digit number identified by the following clues. What is the number?

  1. Neither 0 nor 8 is a digit.
  2. The mystery number is prime.
  3. The odd digits are not adjacent in the mystery number.
  4. No digits are prime.
  5. Two of the digits are even, and two of them are odd.
  6. All of the digits are different.

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #20 Solution: Luggage Combinations

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

A Call for Better Dictionaries

Have you ever tried studying a new area? There you are knowing very little of the specialised language, and you can very quickly find yourself bombarded with a lot of terms.

Suppose you are trying to understand what “thoracic vertebrae” are. If you look up the term, you are likely to see that they are the vertebrae between the cervical vertebrae and the lumbar vertebrae, and now, you have two more terms to clear up! This can get lengthy.

Many dictionaries use the same old format: lists of words and their definitions with the odd, small picture. As an orientation, a large, labelled picture with a lot of the term in an area would help. That way, no matter which term you enter with, you can quickly see how it relates to the other related terms.

An entry might look like:
thoracic vertbrae: usual definition here. See picture The Human Skeleton on page n. etymology here.
and on page n, there is a nice picture that clears things up. For a hardcopy dictionary, these pictures could be combined into one section and printed on better-quality paper that shows detail well.

That would work better for me. How about you?

Odd Language #18: Which Behind?

From Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, ISBN-13: 978-0-15-200898-7, p. 89: “Were the wizards behind the mysterious burned area Mendanbar had found?”

The issue: multiple.

  1. “behind” could be indicating the physical position of the wizards.
  2. Were the wizards behind (as in involved in) the burning of the burned area?
  3. The whole quote could have been a clause indentifying the wizards exactly instead of being a full sentence. For example, it could have continued “… anywhere near here?”

Point 2 is the intended meaning.