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If you have been to Charleston, SC, you may be familiar with the art of making sweetgrass baskets. These baskets are handcrafted by locals in the Gullah tradition. As I drive between tutoring appointments, I pass dozens of stands selling these handcrafted beauties.

I often wonder how sweetgrass baskets are made, where do they get the grass, and is it a profitable venture.  I finally gave into my curiousity and stopped to ask a few questions.


On first thought, I couldn’t believe the cost of a basket! You may think they are pricey, but have you calculated the cost per hour of labor? A small circle used as a drink coaster costs $15 and takes 4 hours of labor to create. That would amount to $3.75 per hour!

IMG_4165I purchased a trivet to prevent hot pans from burning my dining room table. The cost was approximately $40 and took about 8 hours for the artist to create. Now, the mathematician in me began calculating. This would amount to approximately $5 per hour of labor! However, it is even less, if you take into account the cost of the materials.


The women making these baskets purchase the grass materials from men that collect the materials here in the south. In the past, the materials were readily available here in Mount Pleasant, but with our population growth, the resources are dwindling. Now the materials are harvested in states like Florida.

When we take into account the labor and cost of materials, it seems we are getting quite the bargain for these beautiful baskets!

Want to know more about the sweetgrass basket tradition?  The Charleston County Public Library has a brief description. You can also head out to the 2014 Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival here in Mount Pleasant on Friday June 6 – Saturday June 7.

This post is a part of a monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by 4mulaFunFourth Grade StudioTeaching to Inspire in 5th, AND MissMathDork.

Angela Culley

Angela Culley

Owner & Tutor at Math Ninja, LLC
As the founder of Math Ninja, Angela provides online and in person math tutoring for all ages including those studying for the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, PPST, and other math specific subject assessments. Prior to launching her business, Angela coached K-12 educators on effective teaching strategies, curriculum writing, and assessment development.As a classroom teacher, she taught math to students ranging from grade 5 - 12. She has also taught both undergraduate and graduate math courses as an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia and Mountain State University.
Angela Culley
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4 thoughts on “Real Life Math – Sweetgrass Baskets Edition

  • June 13, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Agree completely with meeting new and interesting people when exploring new things. Thanks for stopping by!

  • June 13, 2014 at 6:00 am

    All the more reason why we should appreciate these baskets.
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  • June 4, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    What a cool venture! My MIL and I just love stopping at random road side stands and meeting new people! We come across the most interesting people and items!

    Thanks so much for linking up with us this month!

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