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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Math Time with Liz and Barb

I submitted a couple articles to the volunteer-only newsletter here at Peace Corps Senegal.  Now the newsletter has been published, so I'm going to share them here as well.  Enjoy.

Math Time with Liz and Barb

We know what you’re thinking. “I need to study for an intimidating standardized test, but how can I be motivated when nothing in that realm relates to my life as a Peace Corps Senegal volunteer?”  Never fear!  We’re here to combine real-life Senegal with GRE style math.  Our logo is a trash kitten (see above) because when life gives you trash kittens the best course of action is complete repression of that via copious math.  Grab a pencil, ignore those braying donkeys, and enjoy! 

**answers on the bottom of the page****

1. Mara has one more than half as many staph infections as Kendra, and Mara has 1/3 as many staph infections as Steve.  If Kendra has four infections, how much staph do they have all together?

2.  Your local sandwich lady offers caf√© touba and kenkiliba, tapalapa and machine bread, beans, peas, and onion sauce.  Each sandwich can come with mayonnaise if desired.  How many different sandwich and drink combos are there?

3.  There are enough cold gazelles in the Ourossogui cooler for each of the 12 PCVs at the regional house to have two, but two PCVs are busy writing grants and two are really into Game of Thrones and don’t want to be distracted.  How many gazelles can each of the remaining volunteers drink?

4.  An alhum charged you 350 CFA to get to your regional capital and it should have been 300.  The apranti on your 7place charged 600 for baggage and it should have been 500.  The tailor charged 2400 for a shirt and it should have been 2000.  Whose “toubab tax” is the most reasonable?

5.  Your host family spends half your 20mil diponse on new tabaski complets for the kids, then one-fourth the remaining amount on cola nuts and attaya, then half of what’s let on a new chicken.  How much money is left over for food?

6.  A new volunteer read Outliers and decided to “Malcolm Gladwell” her sex life.  Since the arts of seduction and conquest are not VRF reportable, she devotes only three hours a day to this activity.  At this rate, how many Peace Corps services will it take her to accumulate the 10,000 hours needed to be an expert lovemaker?  Assume each service is 27 months long and she has 24 months left in her first service.

7.  If your work partner helps you build a tippy tap, it takes an hour and a half.  If you build one by yourself, it takes two hours.  Assuming both of you work at a constant rate, what percent of the job does your work partner do?

8.   You’re COSing and looking back on travel times from your service.  From your road town, it took 45 minutes to get to the closest town with internet, which you did once a week.  It took 2 hours to reach your regional capital, which you did three times every two months.  Four times a year, you went to Dakar, which took 12 hours.  You went to Kedougou twice, which took 16 hours each time.  It took the same amount of time on the road to return to site after your trips. How many days were spent on Senegal’s roads during your 24 months as a sworn-in volunteer?  Assume the listed travel is the only time you were out of site.


1. Sixteen.  Kendra has 4, Mara has 3, Steve has 9.  Steve must be in Kedougou.

2. 24 combinations

3.  Each of the eight remaining volunteers can have three gazelles.  Or they could not be dicks and save the drinks for their friends.

4.  The added price on the alhum is the lowest, at 17%.

5.  3750 CFA.  (20,000/2 = 10,000; 10,000 – 2500 = 7500; 7500 – 3750 = 3750).

6.  She will need to complete 4 Peace Corps services, plus a little extra.  Taking 365 days a year divided by 12 months, you get an average of 30.416 days per month.  30.416 days x 3 hours every day equals 91.25 hours a month.  10,000 hours divided by 91.25 hours a month = 109.6 months.  Subtract the 24 months in her first service, and 85.6 months remain.  Divide that by 27 and get 3.16. After her initial service she will need 3.16 more.  But since our intrepid wannabe Casanova is not a quitter, maybe she’ll finish that 5th service as well.  Godspeed.

7. 25%.  If you can build a complete tippy tap by yourself in two hours, you must be able to build ½ a tippy tap in half that time (one hour), which means that in an hour and a half you could finish ¾ of a tippy tap.  Your work partner must have done the remaining ¼ of the work if you finished the whole thing in an hour and a half.

8.  You spent 23.16 days, or 23 days and four hours, on the road.  Daaaaaaaaaaamn!  For the nearest internet town, 45 minutes is ¾ of an hour, times 104 weeks for 2 years of service x 2 for the return trip = 156 hours.  For the regional capital, 4 hours round trip x 1.5 trips per month x 24 months = 144 hours.  For Dakar, 12 hours x 8 trips in 2 years x 2 for the return trip =192 hours.  For Kedougou, 16 x 2 x 2 for the return trip = 64 hours, for a total of 556 hours.  Divide that by 24 hours to get 23.16 days.

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