Algebra and miso soup

This afternoon I was tutoring a high school student in algebra. Now, DH tutors as well, and I had seen him use a fantastic example to explain that 3(x + y) = 3x + 3y so I thought I’d try it out myself.

The example goes like this: Suppose we are at the footy as you decide to have a pie and coke. And I want a pie and coke as well. So you go and buy two pie and coke. That is, two (pie and coke). That means that you get two pies and two cokes. So 2(pie and coke) = 2pie and 2coke.

It worked really well for his student. That kid went ‘oh yeah! I get it! Two pie and coke!’ and the lesson was learned and everyone was content.

So I thought I’d give it a go this afternoon for my student, who is learning the same thing. My student is in grade 9, she has the longest, sparkliest nails I’ve ever seen And she tells me that when she wants to memorise something she writes it out and sticks it to the mirror. “I spend a lot of time looking at the mirror” – it shows. Her makeup is perfect.

I say to her “imagine we’re at the footy together” we both imagined and then I said “yes, I know, it’s just never going to happen, but anyway, IF we were at the footy and I said to you let’s get a pie and coke…”

“Diet coke” says she

“Right, two pies and diet coke”

She says, “I’m vegan, I don’t eat pie.”


“Sushi” she says “we could have sushi and diet coke. Only not coke, miso soup. Coke doesn’t go with sushi, we need to have miso soup”

Sometimes I find tutoring a very complex activity…

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