Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Monday, February 25, 2013

MATHCOUNTS Club Program/ITLAPD (Arrrr!)

In the 2007-2008 school year, MATHCOUNTS introduced the Club Program.  The Club Program is another means to involve and excite middle school students in math.  Schools can have a math club, a competition team, or both within the MATHCOUNTS program.

The Club Program provides resources for fun, instructive math get-togethers throughout the school year.  Clubs can strive for Silver or Gold Status by completing specified numbers of monthly math challenges.  One great thing about the club approach is that it can appeal to students who might not want to be fully involved in competition.

The national MATHCOUNTS office always welcomes input from coordinators and coaches.  In the months leading up to the launch of the Club Program, the national office put out a request for fun problem sets, particularly those with a theme.  I had created a number of such problem sets over the years, and so I submitted a few.  I didn’t know if or how they might use any of my material.  Then the Club Program was announced, and a Club Resource Guide was provided to each participating school.  The very first math club activity in the Club Resource Guide was one of my submittals, Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Shiver me timbers!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (ITLAPD) is on September 19 every year.  It’s one of my favorite holidays, up there with Groundhog Day.  Arrr!  To incorporate ITLAPD into MATHCOUNTS one year, I made a map of Piedmont Academy, the school where I was coaching, and marked ten X’s on it.  Each X marked the location of a math problem.  The mathletes were divided into two teams, and the first team to get back with the most problems solved correctly got the prize booty (chocolate gold coins).  Because I really get into these things, I dressed like a pirate and went by my pirate name, Dirty Bess Flint.  Arrr!

Here be the ITLAPD questions (Avast!  I’ll post the answers tomorrow.):

1) Ol’ Chumbucket can blow a man down in 20 seconds.  Arrr!  How many men can he blow down in 15 minutes?

2) Polly wants a cracker.  Awk!  A bowl of crackers sitting next to her perch contains 5 Ritz© crackers, 4 saltines, and 7 Wheat Thins©.  If she sticks her beak into the bowl and randomly pulls out a cracker, what is the probability that she does NOT get a saltine?  Express your answer as a common fraction.

3) The pirates of The Black Pearl are a motley crew.  Arrr!  Twenty-seven of them have earrings, and 25 of them have peg legs.  If the crew consists of 37 pirates, what is the smallest possible number of pirates in the crew with an earring and a peg leg?

4) Dirty Bess Flint buried her treasure at 24 degrees, 41 minutes N and 78 degrees 04 minutes W.  (That’s degrees and minutes of latitude and longitude, ye scurvy dogs!)  If there are 60 minutes in one degree, convert the treasure’s latitude and longitude into decimal degrees (i.e., showing no minutes).  Express your answer as a decimal to the nearest hundredth.  Arrr!

5) Blackbeard has to swab the poop deck after a sword fight.  Arrr!  The poop deck is 48 feet wide and 100 feet long.  If Blackbeard can swab 125 square feet per minute, how many minutes will it take him to swab the entire poop deck?  Express yer answer to the nearest whole number.

6) On his last raid, Captain Jack Sparrow stole 1000 pieces of eight, 500 doubloons, and 600 gold coins.  (1 piece of eight = $0.75; 1 doubloon = $1.20; and 1 gold coin = $3)  If each type of coin is worth the dollar value given, what is the total value, in dollars, of Captain Jack Sparrow’s booty?  Arrr!

7) The Horrid Shark pirate ship is sailing from the Cayman Islands to St. John’s.  Arrr!  If she can sail 20 miles per hour, and St. John’s is 1350 miles from the Cayman Islands, in how many days will The Horrid Shark arrive at St. John’s?  Express yer answer to the nearest whole number.

8) Cap’n Slappy has to punish one of his bilge rate crew members.  Arrr!  He plans to keelhaul him, which is dragging him along the underside of the boat lengthwise.  However, Cap’n Slappy relents and decides to drag him only widthwise.  If the width of the ship’s hull is approximately a semicircle with radius 40 feet, what is the distance, in feet, that Cap’n Slappy drags the bilge rat?  Express yer answer to the nearest whole number.

9) X marks the spot!  What is the value of X in the system of equations 6X – 5y = 8 and 2X + 9y = 24?

10) Mad Dirk is hanging nautical flags on the mizzenmast.  Arrr!  He doesn’t care about what signals he is sending to other ships (he is mad, after all), and so he randomly selects four of the six flags in the ship’s storage compartment.  How many different combinations of four flags could Mad Dirk select for the mizzenmast?

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