Real-World Math That Isn’t Real To Students

Seen on a dessert menu at a fancy restaurant I crashed this weekend:


“Well you guys said you wanted to know when you’d ever use this stuff.”

I’ll be dedicating this blog to a certain line of inquiry for the next few days or weeks or for however long it takes me to come to some kind of internal consensus. I’d appreciate your help with that.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Not sure it’s going to be linear, the makers are all different. Dome people also prefer the 20 year old. Fun problem but not sure my administration would love it. Either way, I’ll drink to that.

  2. Turns out that curve flattens out real fast as the port distills into what basically tastes (I’m told) like cough syrup. So kind of a fun graph. Really calls into question the definition of “real,” though.

  3. If it’s 18 $, they are cheating ;-) It should be 16 $ (linear), supposing the same quality of wines… You could ask a discount ;-)

  4. I’ve been thinking about the title of this post and wondering how this problem fits. I wonder if it to kids, despite the fact that the problem might come from a real context, it would seem contrived rather than authentic. I’m not sure that working on this question would either excite their natural curiosity enough to make them want to pursue a solution or go some distance to settling the question ‘how will does this math connect to my real life?’. There’s a difference between math people seeing math questions in ‘real’ situations and moving kids towards thinking of math as a tool or set of processes they can easily & naturally engage to make their lives better or better understand what’s going on in the world.