Lewis Black was on NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday and posited an interesting idea for presidential debates. Instead of asking inane questions about crap unrelated to the profession of leading the country or how the candidate would respond to a given current international situation that probably won’t exist by the time of the election, have the candidates take a math test. Given that the current president can’t seem to add two numbers whose sum is greater than ten and we’re going to hell in a hand basket economically, ensuring that the next person who signs the federal budget has a good command of basic math skills is probably a good idea.

So, Senators McCain and Obama, here is your math test. The questions will test your basic knowledge of math at an 8th grade level (nothing more difficult than basic math and entry level algebra). The questions, except for the first one, are taken from Mathcounts, a national math competition for 6th through 8th graders. They are not questions from the competition, these are elementary practice questions for training for the competition.

1. What is the difference between the mean and the mediam of a statistical grouping?

2. Bill wanted to leave the waiter an 18% tip, and her bill was $21.50. How much will the total cost of his dinner and tip be if she rounds the tip itself to the next higher dollar?

3. A square has an area of 49 square centimeters. A circle is inscribed within the square so that the sides of the square are tangent to the circle. What is the area of the inscribed circle? Express your answer as a decimal to the nearest tenth.

4. Joe’s Store guarantees that it will refund what you paid for an item and give you an additional 10% if you find the item for less at a different store. Li paid $137.80 for a DVD player at Joe’s Store. Li then found an ad for the same DVD player at Mike’s Store for less. How much money should Joe’s Store give to Li?

5. What is the value of x such that (x, 0) is a solution of the equation y = 3x – 4? Express your answer as a common fraction.

6. The sum of three numbers is 98. The ratio of the first to the second is 2:3, and the ratio of the second to the third is 5:8. What is the value of the second number?

7. What is the greatest possible value of a in the system of equations 5a + 2b = 0 and ab = -10?

8. Office Surplus promises delivery of orders within three working hours of receipt of any order. Working hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Clyde’s order is received at 3 p.m. on a Friday and takes the maximum promised number of working hours to be delivered. How many actual hours elapse from the time the order is placed until it is delivered?

9. On a certain day, 10 U.S. dollars were worth 7.60 euros, and 1 euro was worth 155 Japanese yen. How many yen were the 10 U.S. dollars worth?

10. In forming his budget for this year, Jamal decided to use his average cost for utilities last year to project his expenses for the future. Last year he spent an average of $216 per month on utilities, but he anticipates a 5% increase in the annual cost of utilities. Based on this information, how much should he expect to pay for utilities each month this year?

Bonus Question for Extra Credit: The sum of four consecutive integers is 2. What is the smallest of the four integers?

Answers in a week…

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