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If Classic Novels Were About High-School Math Tests

By Sahasra Nistala

The Scarlet Letter: Admonished by her community after helping a mystery guy cheat on a math test, Hester is forced to tape her own test, which features a prominent scarlet “F,” on her backpack so that others can gawk at her sin. She must gather enough courage to reclaim her agency and rid her society of patriarchy! tattooing the F on her forehead instead.

The Great Gatsby: Hapless Nick Carraway is enthralled by the high-stakes world of his trigonometry study buddies. But the quixotic Jay Gatsby takes it too far, snatching Daisy from her boyfriend in hopes of finally having a good test partner. After a bunch of drama-filled plot twists and painful dialogue (“whose sine are you on, old sport?”) Nick essentially sits back, eats popcorn, and has a plaintive but profound internal monologue when the inevitable happens.

Moby-Dick: Ishmael, the quintessential C-average student, is roped into Ahab’s quest to get a perfect score on the calculus final, a feat which has never been accomplished before. The previous semester, that final bit an entire point off of Ahab’s GPA. To be honest, Ishmael couldn’t really care less.

Frankenstein: A science-obsessed high-schooler creates an AI chatbot that can solve even the toughest math problems, then comes to terms with his own cowardice as it gains sentience and wreaks havoc on intellectual society. Oops.

The Catcher in the Rye: No stranger to the “phoniness” and general corruption of the modern-day education system, Holden decides to sit around complaining instead of actually doing something about it. He flunks his math test and is promptly kicked out of prep school.

The Call of the Wild: Though shocked after their beloved dog goes missing, Judge Miller’s daughters must hunker down and study for their geometry final. If they can find the length of the hypotenuse, someone can definitely find Buck, right? Right?

Lord of the Flies: When a group of scrappy boys finds themselves in uncharted territory—the Math Olympiad—they must turn to their primal sides in a desperate bid for survival. Spoiler alert: not everyone makes it out alive.

Life of Pi: After hopping on a boat with a group of zoo inhabitants to escape the merciless bullying that came with his name, Pi must use his limited math skills to solve an important problem: how many days until he’s eaten? Remember to show your work, Pi!


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