The Evil’s of the Baker’s Dozen

Sarah Meyer, Columnist

The issue of the baker’s dozen has long plagued bakers and mathematicians alike—in what world can a dozen be equal to thirteen, and more importantly, how can we fix this utter lapse in logic? As it turns out, the answer is more complicated than one might expect.

The emergence of the baker’s dozen is most frequently theorized to be rooted in medieval England. Apparently, colonizing 25 percent of the world’s landmass is not enough for the British monarchy. They will not stop until they ruin our mathematical systems and our bread.

The story goes that in medieval England, loaves of bread had to meet a minimum size requirement. Bakers who sold undersized loaves, even by accident, were subject to fines, flogging, and other punishments. With the natural fluctuations in bread loaf weights, the requirement was surprisingly difficult to meet.

Therefore, bakers started to put a little bit of extra dough, which then evolved into the baker’s dozen as we know it. This system of 13 in a dozen is so nonsensical and archaic that it begs for a solution.

The question of what a baker’s dozen should be, though, still remains. Bakers have long complained about the numerous flaws in the American style of baking—mainly the abundant use of volumetric measurements to measure flour, sugar, and starches, and the use of inches to measure lengths. Likewise, mathematicians and scientists have long raged over the prevalence of the imperial system—especially the inconvenient unit quantities and a general lack of precision. 

Therefore, it seems unwise to revert to the original dozen of twelve—it would be too reminiscent of the many flaws in the imperial system. Rather, we should accustom ourselves to the metric system, the system everyone subconsciously wants but doesn’t necessarily know they do.

In the metric system, most numbers are multiples of ten, and the closest multiple of ten to 12 is in fact ten itself. It seems only logical, then, that the modern dozen should be ten in compliance.