Brads Wife

Last week I blogged about a math problem about “Who the Heck is Brad” and his grooming. While Brad is of course nobody, apparently his wife is famous. After posting the problem several people messaged me with reference to the viral story of Brad’s wife who was fired from Cracker Barrel restaurant.

The Math Problem is Brad’s Wife

Instead of using a lame contrived math problem about a fake person, start with something real. We want students to be interested in learning and make a connection. It helps to start with something interesting. Share the story with students of how the story of Brad’s wife being fired went viral.


Move beyond “doing math” to having students have conversations about math. I doubt the students are too interested in chatting about Brad’s grooming, but what could have gotten Brad’s wife fired…. that makes for a good hook to get students talking.

Have students work in small groups to brainstorm a list (can I suggest in a shared Google Sheets spreadsheet) of things Brad’s wife does at work: waiting tables, washing dishes…. let the kids come up with the list. Also, suggest… what activities, appropriate for school, might have gotten her fired.

Made Up Numbers

Math ProblemThe numbers in the chart of the original math problem were made up.

If students are going to do math with made up numbers, let them make up the numbers.

In the spreadsheet, have students choose how many hours the shift is that Brad’s wife works. Have them then break down the hours into the spreadsheet chart with a directive that only at most one category can be a whole number, the rest must be fractional. No two denominators can match. Then students can determine how much time Brad’s wife spent on tasks that may have led to her getting fired.

Do Not Collect 30 Of The Same Thing

One goal I have when lesson planning is to avoid collecting 30 of the same thing. By allowing the students to choose the numbers and the possible activities of Brad’s wife, each group submits something different. This is more interesting to grade also.


After working together in a group on determining how Brad’s wife may have been fired, each individual student can explain how they determined the number of hours.

DOK and the 4 C’s

Let’s check the DOK level and the 4C’s of this activity.

Collaborate: Students collaborate together on a spreadsheet to talk about how Brad’s wife spends her time.
Critical Thinking: This problem is DOK 2: Instead of DOK 1 follow steps to add up how many hours Brad spends grooming, students instead need to think about how the fractional hours add up to the total number of hours in the shift.
Creative Thinking: The students got to be creative in how they tackled the problem. Again, 30 of the same thing are not being submitted.
Clearly Communicating Ideas: Students explain their process, why they chose the numbers they chose, and how they determined time spent poorly by Brad’s wife. Students can present their findings possibly.

Instant Relevance

The author of the book Instant Relevance, Denis Sheeran, was the first to share the story of Brad’s wife with me. What is great about Denis is he always looking for real things to use for math problems. And, this is what his book is about. Denis was able to get some additional information that can be used to modify the “Brad’s Wife” activity.

  1. Typical schedule at a Cracker Barrel. Investigate and break into fractional parts
  2. Create Brad’s wife schedule that you feel would end in a firing.
  3. How long would that schedule have to go on for the firing
  4. How much Cracker Barrellicious time was lost due to it?
  5. She worked for 11 years, what’s the value of the time lost at her pay rate.(retail manager, indiana)
  6. So they fired her over $$?
  7. Effects of Brad’s wife social media. See article
    1. 90% of traffic
    2. 226% increase in engagement
    3. Also last week, there were 8,000 tweets around the hashtag #JusticeforBradsWife and 5,000 tweets around the hashtag #Bradswife, according to Amobee. Cracker Barrel’s Twitter handle was mentioned in 7,000 tweets, and Twitter sentiment around those tweets was 85 percent negative, 9 percent positive and 6 percent neutral.

The Spreadsheet and Fractions

As a high school math teacher, I saw that many of my students struggled with fractions. What does three and two-fifths mean to them? Many of my students know the procedural steps (magic trick) for multiplying the whole number by the denominator and adding the numerator, but very few actually understood the concept. WHY does that work?
three and two fifths


The three is ADDED to the two-fifths. In algebra, we usually indicate multiplication by having two things next to each other (5x). However, in the case of a mixed fraction, the operation is addition. To write a mixed fraction in a spreadsheet students have 2 choices. To express it as a sum or to use the g(math) Add-on for Sheets. Personally, I am partial to having students write it linearly as 3+2/5 which helps students think about the operations that are going on in a mixed fraction. It is more important students understand the concepts than for it to be pretty.
Mixed Fraction

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