Tag Archives: math

What gluten means to me…mathematically

Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Though I wound up in publishing instead (less public speaking), I hung onto some shreds of the dream. Most recently I’m turning them to—possibly—good use as a volunteer SAT tutor.

If you’ve ever wondered whether anything is harder than going gluten-free, teaching is. Apart from being confronted with your lack of any sort of coolness recognized by a high school junior, you also become intimately aware of every gap and shortcoming in your own training and memory. It’s humbling to flip through the tutor manual and realize you’ll need to reteach yourself the math before you can teach it to anyone else.

The manual, donated to the tutoring program by Kaplan, tells me to present the material in a way the kids can relate to. The same tactic comes in handy when reeducating myself. There’s a surprising amount of parallels between the SATs and gluten-free life. For example, “If you don’t know, skip it, because you’re only penalized for getting it wrong” is true of both unfamiliar food and unfamiliar SAT questions.

This also works for understanding specific concepts. Here, for example, is a thorough reintroduction to “systems of equations,” using gluten. If high school is a ways behind you, and your math score, like mine, was <800, you too may appreciate the refresher.

The problem: Solve the system of equations for gluten.


To start, pick either equation, like this one:


Next, subtract gluten from all sides (you got this) in order to isolate celiac (aww).


So a celiac is an unhappy person without gluten. Sounds about right. Plug this definition into the other equation in place of celiac, like so:


Clean it up…


…and isolate gluten. Subtract the unhappiness from both sides…


…and divide by –2 for the answer.


Looks like gluten equals divided feelings, mostly negative. True enough, but we’re not quite through. Since the opposite of happy is unhappy, we can change the negative smiley into a frown…


…add them up…


…and cancel the twos for the final answer:


There you have it. Gluten equals unhappiness. I’d say we don’t even have to check that answer.

Don’t worry, I’m not teaching the kids using gluten metaphors (talk about uncool!). Have you ever tried teaching or tutoring? Did/do you like it? How’s my math? And do you agree with the equations’ conclusion?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: