Queer Word Problems For All Your Alternative Lifestyle Needs

Notes From A Queer Engineer_Rory Midhani_640Header by Rory Midhani
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Standardized tests have favored rich white men for approximately as long as they’ve been around, and it’s still happening today. By my estimation, the gatekeepers of society are long overdue to test a different sort of aptitude. An alternative sort of aptitude, if you know what I mean.

Below are six sample word problems of the sort I believe should be on every standardized test in the country. Take your time, show your work, and remember: this is about girl poweryou can do anything good, this is for all of us.

Stickers will be given liberally for participation. Answers are at the bottom of the page. You may begin now.



1. Shortly after moving in together, Marisol and Casey came to the realization that they both went way overboard on the feminist votive candle trend last year. When they counted them up, they came to a total of 93 candles. In their bedroom, they have 7 display shelves, which can fit 7 candles each. If Marisol and Casey cut down their collection to keep only what can fit on the shelves, how many feminist votive candles will they need to throw out, donate to charity, or give to friends?


2. Rachel is baking mini vegan cupcakes for her book club. There are 12 members of her book club, and Rachel expects each person to eat an average of 4 cupcakes. (Her coconut milk chocolate recipe has been a real hit in the past, even among non-vegans. So.) If Rachel wants to bake all the cupcakes in one go, how many trays of 24 does she need to fill with batter?


3. It’s date night, and instead of going out to their favorite poly play party, Anna, Amanda, Ali, Annalise, Andy and Adrian have decided to stay in, order Thai food, and reconnect. They each want to have one on one discussions about their feelings. Order doesn’t matter. How many discussions about feelings will be had?

4. Syd is making nondenominational holiday cards for incarcerated queer and trans people. They have 250 blue sequins, which they plan to use as snowflakes for the cards. If they distribute the sequins equally on each of the 15 cards, how many sequins will Syd have left?


5. Valerie, Claire, Nikki, Kayla and Shannon are going to brunch this Saturday. Shannon and Nikki are a couple. Valerie and Claire are a couple. Last year, Kayla cheated on Valerie with Shannon. Kayla now wants to get back with one of her exes and everybody knows it — but what they don’t know is which ex she’s trying to get with. If they all sit at the bar, in what order should they sit so that the couples can sit next to each other, Kayla doesn’t have the opportunity to play footsie with her crush, and Shannon and Valerie are as far apart as possible?

6. Erin, Nesreen and Vivian are cooperatively deciding how to arrange the plant in the community garden this year. Vivian has 45 heirloom tomato plants she brought with her from Portland. Erin has 81 brussel sprout plants. Nesreen has 63 sunflower plants. Zoning laws are very flexible in the lesbian separatist commune they belong to, so space limitations are not a pressing issue. If they put the same number of plants in each row and each row has only one type of plant, what is the greatest number of plants they can put in one row?



1. 7×7 = 49. 93-49 = 44. Marisol and Casey need to get rid of 44 feminist votive candles.
2. 12×4 = 48. 48/24 = 2. Rachel needs to fill 2 trays with vegan cupcake batter.
3. Because order doesn’t matter, this is a combination word problem. C(6,2) = (6×5)/(2×1) = 15. 15 discussions about feelings will be had.
4.  250/15 = 16 remainder 10. Syd will have 10 sequins left.
5. To avoid conflict, the seating order should be Shannon, Nikki, Kayla, Claire, Valerie. (Or the reverse.)
6. Factors of 45: 1, 3, 5, 9, 15, 45. Factors of 81: 1, 3, 9, 27, 81. Factors of 63: 1, 3, 7, 9, 21, 63. The greatest common factor is 9. They can put 9 plants in each row of the lesbian separatist community garden.

Notes From A Queer Engineer is a recurring column with an expected periodicity of 14 days. The subject matter may not be explicitly queer, but the industrial engineer writing it sure is. This is a peek at the notes she’s been doodling in the margins.

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 211 articles for us.

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