During class 2 of our program, we teach a lesson entitled Math Refresher. I thought it would be fun to share one of the problems with you and talk through two things: (1) the actual algebra (real math) we would need to solve the problem, and (2) the standardized testing skills that allow us to solve the problem much more easily.

First, try this problem (© Manhattan Prep). Note: there are no multiple choice answers: you have to come up with a number on your own!

Sarita and Bob together contribute to the cost of a \$40 gift. If Bob contributes \$12 more than Sarita does, how much does Bob contribute?

How did you do it? Did you write some equations? Try out some numbers? Find some other cool shortcut?

On this one, the best approach is a very neat shortcut that I’m going to show you “ but only after I show you the actual algebra. It’s important to know how to do the algebra, just in case you don’t know or can’t find any good shortcuts.
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Mnemonics or mnemonic devices are memory tricks to help us remember things like vocabulary words. However, many mnemonics are pretty cheesy — often involving the kind of jokes some people call “groaners.” For instance…

Disingenuous means, “insincere; lacking in frankness or candor; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous.”

Here’s the mnemonic:

Each week, we post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for two free Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides.

The 11th grade girls at Stumpville High School have an average GPA of 3.1, and the overall 11th grade average GPA is 3.05. If all of the boys enrolled in Honors Chemistry are in the 11th grade and those boys have an average GPA of 3.8, what is the average GPA of all the 11th grade boys who are not enrolled in Honors Chemistry?

The following, by Jeff Brechlin, is the winning entry from a Washington Post Style Invitational contest that asked readers to submit “instructions” for something in the style of a famous person.

Here is Shakespeare’s Hokey Pokey.

For the benefit of our international students, the “Hokey Pokey” is a silly dance for children that goes something like this:

You put your [right leg] in,
You put your [right leg] out;
You put your [right leg] in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the hokey pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!

A different part of the body is referenced in each verse (so, the song can go on for kind of a long time).

The Shakespearean version contains some antiquated words that wouldn’t appear on the GRE (“anon” means soon, quickly), but also some very excellent GRE words:

Lithe – bending readily; pliant; limber; supple; flexible: the lithe body of a ballerina.

Wanton – Done, shown, used, etc., maliciously or unjustifiably (a wanton attack; wanton cruelty); without regard for what is right, just, humane, etc.; careless; reckless; sexually lawless or unrestrained (wanton lust); extravagantly or excessively luxurious (Kanye West’s Tweets about how fur pillows are actually hard to sleep on might indicate a wanton lifestyle). Basically, wanton can mean lacking restraint in a number of ways.

Yoke – a device for joining together a pair of draft animals, especially oxen, usually consisting of a crosspiece with two bow-shaped pieces, each enclosing the head of an animal; a frame fitting the neck and shoulders of a person, for carrying a pair of buckets or the like, one at each end; an agency of oppression, subjection, servitude, etc.

Here’s a yoke pictured on Wikipedia:

Each week, we post a new Challenge Problem for you to attempt. If you submit the correct answer, you will be entered into that week’s drawing for two free Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides.

In a family of four people, none of the people have the same age, but all are a prime number of years old. Two of the people are less than 12 years old, and the other two people are between 40 and 52 years old. If the average of their four ages is also a prime number, what are the ages of the family members?

Indicate four such ages.