Mathematically Speaking

Carole and Lynne are the same age. Marilyn’s age is 1/3 of the sum of Carole’s age and Lynne’s age. If the sum of their ages is 48, how old is Marilyn?

A) 24 B) 15 C) 12 D) 10 E) 22  (Answer below)

Did this problem give you a thrill of challenge or a shiver of dread? Some people have more number aptitude, some are more inclined to the language arts. Personally, I am oriented toward the latter, and there are at least a couple of reasons for that. One has to do with the topic of one of my prior blogs about the brain: we simply have more ability in some areas than others (though there are exceptions).

Another reason is my algebra teacher at Pershing Junior High School. I had the misfortune of getting Mrs. Hausner several years after my brother did. He was destined to become a chemistry major; my preference was Romance languages. I didn’t stand a chance of living up to her expectations of “the little sister,” and was tortured by seeing her not only for instruction, but at the beginning and end of each day as well since she was my homeroom teacher. She never got how I didn’t “get it,” and her disdain amplified my anxiety over the subject matter.

I was okay in the beginning, when we started out with something like

x=3      x+2=3+2      x+2=5

But in no time I was staring at a five term expression such as


Wait! Was that the lunch bell? I’ll solve that problem later.

I did better with geometry, relating to spatial relationships and shapes, no doubt a soothing reminder of those oversized building blocks from Kindergarten.

But my ineptitude with figures continued to plague me. My solution to an unbalanced checkbook for more than a few months was to close the account and start over at another bank. Seriously. So, my husband has been paying our bills for almost twenty years, and the gas and electric haven’t been turned off (yet). Life is good.

Life got a little better recently. When I called my brother to ask him our teacher’s name, he mentioned a fact that either I’d never known or had forgotten: our father had enlisted a family friend to tutor him in algebra. Hmmph! But then he added this: “My nemesis was word problems. You remember, a train leaves Chicago at 8:00 a.m. traveling west at 50 mph, and another train leaves Los Angeles at 10:00 a.m. traveling east, etc.”

And the numbers versus letters train rolls on . . .

Answer: C) 12


About Tricia Pimental

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tricia Pimental's second memoir, A Movable Marriage, has received 5 Star reviews from both Epic Book Quest and Readers' Favorite. It's available on Amazon in both Kindle ( and print ( versions. She is also the author of two Royal Palm Literary Award Competition-honored books: Rabbit Trail: How a Former Playboy Bunny Found Her Way, and Slippery Slopes. Other work has appeared in International Living Magazine; A Janela, the quarterly magazine of International Women in Portugal; and anthologies compiled by the Florida Writers Association and the National League of American Pen Women. A member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and a former Toastmaster, Ms. Pimental resides in Portugal. She can be reached at and on Twitter @Tricialafille.
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2 Responses to Mathematically Speaking

  1. Lynner says:

    I ABSOLUTELY got a stomachache reading those “word problems.” You know I am a word person and definitely NOT a number person. Remind me to tell you about my SAT scores someday…

    Bon voyage,


  2. Tricia says:

    Here’s something funny: I first posted it using “1/3” in the problem, and was quickly told to me by someone that I was mistaken; it should have read “1/4” in the first line. The discrepancy came in because he read the puzzle as the sum of Carole’s and Lynne’s ages only, not Marilyn’s, too. My brother worked out the solution, but of course it’s on an Excel sheet (“Numbers are his business … his only business.”), so I don’t think I can post it.

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