Formulas in text

Scan from newspaper with slightly silly formula

The Metro is a free newspaper that is distributed on trains and at bus stops in the West Midlands and London. As I and many of my students arrive at college by public transport, we often have copies of the Metro in hand, and some articles provide ‘starters’ for Maths lessons. There are often small filler articles like the one above that promote wacky formulas for slightly silly things.

Dwight Barkley is a Maths professor (English sense) at Warwick University, and his home page presents an impressive array of publications in a notoriously difficult area of applied maths. As Professor Barkley appears to have three very active children I think he probably has plenty of data :-)

Alas, the text can be interpreted in two ways…

Formula version 1

I think this is the version that was meant judging mainly by the placement of that comma. Here A = number of activities, C = number of children, Δ = time for getting in car and setting off.

Formula version 2

But I think this alternative version is consistent with the text. I am assuming the time is measured in hours. Can newspapers not manage a bit of mathematical typesetting in this day and age? I used the Latex Equation Editor with the size set to 36px.

I can get part of a lesson out of this next year given a range of family sizes in my adult return to learn classes. The missing bracket makes a significant difference!

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