In honor of Black History Month we’ve provided a few fun and challenging math problems. Try these out.
1. On 25 March 1965, Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators on a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. According to the American College of Sports Medicine the average step length of an adult is 2.6 feet or about 31 inches. There are 5,280 feet in a mile.
Can you determine how many steps were taken by someone marching the entire distance from Selma to Montgomery Alabama? (To estimate there are about 2000 steps in a mile)
2. A court order restricted the number of marchers to 300 when passing over a stretch of two-lane highway. However, on the final day of the march, when the road reached four lanes the number of demonstrators swelled to 25,000.
What was the percentage of increase?
3. An African-American and son of a former slave, Benjamin Banneker rose to fame as a brilliant scientist, scholar and mathematician. He wrote and collected mathematical puzzles written in verse. Here is one that can be a lot of fun to try and figure out. See how close you can come to answering the question “How many leaps did the hound have to make to catch the hare?
When fleecy skies have Cloth’d the ground
With a white mantle all around
Then with a grey hound Snowy fair
In milk white fields we Cours’d a Hare
Just in the midst of a Champaign
We set her up, away she ran,
The Hound I think was from her then
Just thirty leaps or three times ten
Oh it was pleasant for to see
How the Hare did run so timorously
But yet so very Swift that I
Did think she did not run but Fly
When the Dog was almost at her heels
She quickly turn’d, and down the fields
She ran again with full Career
And ‘gain she turn’d to the place she were
At every turn she gain’d of ground
As many yards as the greyhound
Could leap at thrice, and She did make,
Just Six, if I do not mistake
Four times She Leap’d for the Dogs three
But two of the Dogs leaps did agree
With three of hers, nor pray declare
How many leaps he took to Catch the Hare.
Just Seventy two I did Suppose,
An Answer false from thence arose,
I Doubled the Sum of Seventy two,
But still I found that would not do,
I mix’d the Numbers of them both,
Which Shew’d so plain that I’ll make Oath,
Eight hundred leaps the Dog to make,
And Sixty four, the Hare to take.
For hints on solving this complex verse problem see John F. Mahoney’s excellent discussion of this and other Banneker puzzles