We have all at one point or another learned some variation of a mathematical formula involving trains and their timetables. For example: if a train leaves Boston for New York at 7am and travels at 60mph, will it beat a train leaving Providence at 6am traveling 45mph? The idea behind this kind of "story" problem is to engage a student with a real-world example to which they can relate. The thinking follows that that engagement will solidify the mathematical concept. It's one of those conceits that has hung around for seemingly as long as math has been taught. And it may very well be completely wrong.