Many of you had fun with this question, not limited to the “c” section.  Several of you sent the solution, including, Elmer Krebs, of the Library of Congress, who graciously let me give him credit for sending such detailed information. 


Ellen Rothbaum, MS, AHIP

Assistant Director

Medical Library

North Shore University Hospital

300 Community Drive

Manhasset, NY 11030

Voice:  (516) 562-4324

Fax:  (516) 562-2865


The original posting:


The problem below was given to my son as part of his algebra homework.  Neither he nor my husband (a physician) could figure out how to set it up.  I read it and took about three seconds to figure out how to solve it.  See if you can answer the questions, especially c.


33.  Subscription.  A magazine offers an online subscription that allows you to view up to 25 archived articles free.  To view 30 archived articles, you pay $49.15.  To view 33 archived articles, you pay $57.40.


a.  What is the cost of each archived article for which you pay a fee?


b.  What is the cost of the magazine subscription?


c. What do you think of this subscription model?  (my question)


From:  Glencoe Algebra 1, Common Core Standards Edition, page 230, question 33.  New York:  McGraw Hill Education.  2014.


Elmer’s solution:

So as not to deprive the SERIALISTers of the chance to exercise their math skills, I am posting this response directly to you.

My son is not quite to Algebra, but I think I’ve got this one.  And, as his teacher insists, I will show my work:

33. a.     If Subscription Cost = X ; and Archived Article Fee = Y, then the information given can be expressed as

                              X + 5Y = $49.15

                              X + 8Y = $57.40

Assuming a flat (not sliding) per-article fee, we would surmise that

$57.40 - $49.15 = $8.25 = 3Y

Therefore Y (the cost of each archived article for which you pay a fee) = $2.75

33. b.     Now that we have solved for Y, we can determine the value of X

                              X + 5($2.75) = $49.15

                              X + $13.75 = $49.15

Therefore:           X (cost of the magazine subscription) = $35.40



Here are the other responses:



1.      Hahaha.  As I am sitting at my desk, eating my lunch, and laughing at this because 1) I have kids in middle school and the talk is all about Common Core Standards, 2) I don't understand their way of figuring it out either, and 3) does it surprise us that this is McGraw Hill? LOL.  My answer to #2 is - you have to call and talk to the vendor and depending on where you work and how much money they think you have, you will get the highest price quoted that they think they can get you to pay.  That's the real answer. 


2.      Oh, I'm sure it did have a real answer.  I just didn't have my algebra glasses on. :-).  But, still, wow. 



1.      Thanks--I was on the right trail but got interrupted several times & gave up multiplyin & subtracting..I feel the publishers' pain but information exchange/sharing is always going to be subject to historical change...just like librarians (especially since the stereotyping has been so lousy as long as I can remember...males start muscling into "technological" stuff, it is what we've been doing since librartians began>>>.verifying truths, tracing knowledge, gathering information, nomenclature ..evidence based medicine is what I've bene doing for  pay since 28 full years..before that i did it for hunger to know.......thanks for the puzzle & the



1.      Well, I would have gotten it right if I hadn't subtracted 25 from 33 and gotten 7. :-)


    Hooray for new math,


    It won't do you a bit of good to review math.

    It's so simple,

    So very simple,

    That only a serials librarian can do it!


2.      Yep. That's what my colleague got, since she knows how to subtract. And she's not as tired as I am today, despite her two-year-old.


However, I might disagree with your conclusion. The first 25 articles are about half the cost of the additional cost-per-article. It sounds as if they're trying to discourage people from getting more than 25 articles per subscription period, which is kind of a dumb idea. Whether it's a good deal depends on what the journal charges for a single article *without* a subscription, and what the copyright fee is for articles over five. If you only need x number of articles and option A costs $35.40 + $2.75 over 25, option B costs a flat $10.00 per article, and option C costs $7.50 + $3.50 CCC fee, it could be worth it.


As you can see, I'm *waaaaaay* over-thinking this, mainly because I'm putting off updating a 75+ line search I did a couple of years ago. :-)



c. What type of magazine is it and how many issues per year are there?

If it's a scholarly journal in my library, that would be a good bargain.

We usually don't view more than 25 articles in a given periodical per year. 


Will you share the solution? If your son is taking algebra, I'm guessing you are closer to having taken it than I am (40+ years). As to 'C', those first 5 archived articles are expensive! One question that comes to mind, is what about current content? Or is everything considered archived?



Proof once again that Algebra is one of the more important subjects in school!  Won't give away the answer.  But Library Schools might have to add algebra to their curriculum -- and what a great opportunity for CE courses and meeting topics.  I can just see us now, spending hours trying to decide whether this model, pay as you go, or straight subscription costs would be the best for each and every one of our subscriptions.



x = subscription

y = per article after 25 articles

doing the problem in cents rather than dollars, x + 5 y = 4915 x + 8 y = 5740

     3 y =  825

       y =  275


x + 1375= 4915

x       = 3540


The subscription costs $35.40 and covers the first 25 articles; each additional article is $2.75.



a)$1.64 per article at 30 articles

$1.74 per article at 33 articles

b) This question is ambiguous  because it doesn’t mention current content. Do you want a current subscription? Or just archive articles? Some publications separate the two.

c) Seems weird and not fully explained in the question text.

Also d) people publish their logins, and you can clear cookies  in your cache; either way, you can probably get in for free no matter the limit on the typical individual-level magazine subscription websites.


I love this … and forwarded it on to a friend of mine who teaches Math at Union College.


1.       I look forward to a detailed explanation of how to get to the answer....    <grin>  

One person in our library thinks she's got the formula figured out, but the other person simply solved it but couldn't tell us the formula for how she got the answer.  "It just came in my head."


(Is the answer $35.40 for the subscription, with the cost per article above the 25 free ones is $2.75?)   And I didn't get ANY of this!  <grin>


2.      Oh, and to answer "C" - I think this subscription model would actually be beneficial for our library for a variety of subscriptions.  I typically shied away from these kind of offerings , never giving it true consideration, but now, as of this example, I would give it due consideration for those higher priced titles with low use but still have to keep for the few physicians on staff.  An eye-opening exercise!


Thanks to your son, and your son's teacher for this example....and thanks to YOU for sharing!!


That’s pretty funny. My math’s rusty, so it took me a good while longer than 3 seconds, but here’s what I came up with:

Base sub cost: $35.73

Per-article fee: $2.68

How’d I do?

I think I’d need more information to evaluate the whole price model. Do you get perpetual simultaneous-user access to the “viewed” articles? It sounds more like an individual subscription rather than institutional, though, so it would all depend on the nature of the content anyway. If it’s a technical trade publication, there would be cases where our engineering researchers might find it cost-effective, but if it’s come-and-go popular news, that’s less likely to be the case.

When informed of the correct solution, this person said:


Hmph. Like I said, I’m rusty. Here’s what I did.

Where x is the cost of additional articles above 25 included in the subscription

and y is the subscription cost:

49.15 - 5x = y   [the total cost for 30 articles (49.15) minus the cost of 5 single articles (5x) equals the base subscription cost]

57.40 - 8x = y   [the total cost for 33 articles (57.40) minus the cost of 8 single articles (8x) equals the base subscription cost]


49.15 - 5x = 57.40 - 8x

Then you subtract 49.15 from both sides and add 8x to both sides

8x - 5x = 57.40 - 49.15  ==>  3x = 8.25  ==> x = 2.75

And… That’s what you said. :) I must have typed something into the calculator wrong, and then the other calculation was based on that…

Good thing I don’t do much with budgets at work. I just pay the bills.

Anyway, it was a bit surprising to find that particular “genre” of question in a math textbook. Maybe if we got more involved in that industry, we could prep more students to have a librarian mindset. At least a serials-management mindset, I guess.

c. If it’s $35.40 for an annual subscription with 25 free archived articles, $2.75 per additional article seems a little steep.  At that rate, just the initial 25 archived articles would theoretically cost the user $68.75.  I think $1 per article would be more reasonable – this is my personal opinion.


NB: Luckily, I don’t make these decisions as part of my current position – I set up access to the subscriptions.  However, I really like math, which is why I decided to reply :)  Please let me know if my answers match yours, just out of curiosity!




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