We suck at math. It shouldn’t come as a surprise—American high schoolers are below average in math among the world’s most developed nations. It’s been that way since 2003. Even kids in Lichtenstein and Macao do better than our kids. Let’s pause a moment while some of us dash off see on which continents those countries/territories are.

Yeah, we suck at geography as well.

Hey, kiddos, if this doesn’t catch your attention then perhaps the following will. We are two points behind Russia! That’s gotta make you want to improve, right?


For some reason when it comes to math, we are quite content to forfeit our competitiveness. It’s a tacit concession—let the Asians and other countries take credit for being whizzes at math. Heck,we are better than the rest of the world at lots of other things, like football, baseball, racking up student loans, personal bankruptcy, obesity, etc.

When asked for his thoughts on our consistently dismal performance in math, US Education Secretary Arnie Duncan said that America needs to, “invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators.”


Yeah, yeah, sure, whatever, but that ain’t gonna happen. If you live States-side, you know why.

In my years as a substitute teacher, many kids have told me that math is an acquired taste and they simply haven’t acquired a taste for it. That’s too bad because most US states require at least three years of math to graduate high school. Once when I supervised study hall, a tenth grader sat down to tackle algebra. From the pained expression on his face, I could’ve sworn he was passing a kidney stone for every math problem he attempted. Another kid told me hated math so much that he’d rather eat okra—everyday.

I remember thinking, good idea. It will definitely hurt less than kidney stones.

Whether he realized it or not, that math-averse kid was onto something. A daily dose of this slimy green vegetable has been known to improve brain power. In countries such as India, China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore okra is a respected vegetable. That’s right—they are among the top 20 nations that outperform the US in math.


Maybe some genius will find a way to synthesize the slime and turn it into easy-to-swallow capsules. It may even be the panacea for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Nutritionally, okra is high in fiber, vitamin B6 and folic acid (what your body needs to make healthy cells). One half cup of cooked okra has as few as 25 calories.


In addition, it has
Dietary fiber – 2 grams
Protein – 1.5 grams
Carbs – 5.8 grams
Vitamin A – 460 IU
Vitamin C – 13 mg
Folic acid – 36.5 micrograms
Calcium – 50 mg
Iron – 0.4 mg
Potassium – 256 mg
Magnesium – 46 mg

At my abode, okra has rock star status. We call it the math-vegetable. It gets eaten without fuss because it works with rice, roti, risotto and even sushi. The trick is to cook it so the slime caramelizes. The end product is a crispy, tasty veggie that even Zephyr, our 10 lb mutt will eat.

Here’s a recipe I use. It isn’t deep fried, and uses very little oil, making it a healthier version. Hope you enjoy it.

Serving: 4
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 40 minutes to cook and 20 minutes to prep.

TIP 1: when choosing okra, pick the ones whose tips snap off easily.
TIP 2: wash okra and dry with paper towel before you begin to chop the vegetable.

2 lbs okra – snip off both ends. Slice into quarters and chop fine.
1 dry red chili, crushed
salt to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp mustard seed
½ tsp white, whole urad dhal
1 ½ cups finely chopped onion. Set aside ½ cup
4 curry leaves
Pinch of cumin powder
½ tsp coriander powder

Pre heat a large frying pan on medium heat. Toss all the ingredients together, except for the ½ cup of chopped onion, in a large bowl to combine. Check for salt. When the pan is hot, add the contents of the bowl. Toss gently to distribute the okra evenly. Reduce heat to low (2 on the heat knob). Stir gently every ten minutes. When the slime has caramelized – roughly ½ hour into cooking time, add the ½ cup of reserved onion. Toss. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with roti, rice … or eat it a la carte!

DISCLAIMER: If your math skills don’t improve, it’s probably because you have a genetic indisposition to math!


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