My Seventeen Years Of Wacky Halloween Costumes

At my school, Stuyvesant High School, there’s a tradition of students and teachers dressing up in some pretty elaborate Halloween costumes.  Now that I’m in my 14th year there, I realize that I’m starting to lose track of all the costumes so I thought I’d collect them in one definitive place so I always have them.

2003 — Einstein.  My first year, this wasn’t such a crazy costume and there’s no photo that I know of.

2004 — Ali Gebra

At the time before Borat, The Ali G show was popular at that time, and this costume is still my wife’s favorite:


2005 — Homer Simpson

Most people thought this one was just creepy.


2006 — Calculicious.  A Flavo’ Flav parody with a giant calculator on my neck instead of a clock.  The graph is the exact equation for curves that make the horns on the helmet.  Also, if you look very close, I have a full gold ‘grill’ on my top teeth.


2007 — Tim Novikoff.  A good friend of mine left teaching to go to graduate school so I dressed as him by dying my hair blonde and getting blue contact lenses.  I don’t have a picture of this one. [Update:  Picture found!]

halloween 2007 001

2008 — Irrational Number.  I had an idea that a bunch of teachers from the math department would dress up as different types of numbers.  Someone would wear a Santa Claus hat and have an ‘i’ on his chest and be an ‘imaginary number.’  Someone would be a ‘perfect square’, etc.  I assigned a bunch of people to be different types and I got a punk rock wig and had a shirt that said Pi is irrational, so I was the ‘irrational number.’  Nobody else dressed up so that was the last time I tried to coordinate a group themed costume.  No picture, I think.

2009 — Facebook.  My Facebook friends on the timeline are all famous mathematicians, mostly dead, discussing math.  This was probably my favorite of all the costumes.  It has a lot of private math jokes in it, and I’d say that this is the one that took the longest to create.

facebook costumefacebook shirt

2010 — FOIL.  This was one of those costumes that ‘you have to figure out’.  FOIL is a thing from high school math, a way of multiplying certain mathematical expressions.  So I had the tin foil costumes with the math expressions and people had to stare and figure it out.  This was a huge his and I’d say that the 2009 and 2010 consecutive year were the peak of my Halloween costume creativity.

foil costume2011 — Stanley Teitel.  Our principal was forced into retirement the summer before because some students had cheated on the Physics regents.  So I went as Mr. Teitel in retirement with a Hawaiian shirt and a bag of money and the Physics regents.  No picture that I know of.

2012 — Occupy Sesame Street.  As ‘occupy wall street’ was happening around that time, this was a funny twitter hashtag that I made into a costume, another kind you ‘had to figure out.’  Most people didn’t but it was still an elaborate costume.  Looks kind of like the Homer Simpson costume.

bert costume

2013 — Walter White.  With my bag of ‘Crystal Math’ this costume went over pretty well.

walter white

2014 — Wolfman Alpha.  This was a spoof on the math website Wolfram Alpha.  In addition to this costume, I had a speaker where I explained in a wolfman voice that I was once a professor and I got bitten by a werewolf and became Wolfman Alpha.

wolfman alpha

2015 — Marty McFly.  Though it is not math themed or likely understood by many of my students, Back To The Future is one of my favorite movies and with October 21st 2015 being the day they travel to the future in the second movie, I really can’t go as anyone else in good conscience.  This picture was taken on October 21st 2015 at the theater where I attended a triple feature of all three movies beginning at 5:30 PM and ending around midnight.

marty mcfly

2016 — Safety School Rejection Letter.  To a Stuyvesant High School student, nothing is more scary than a rejection letter from the fictitious Safety School University.  Though this might have been a tad mean, students seemed to enjoy it with good humor.


2017 — Citibike.  Though this costume became bittersweet as a terror attack claimed the lives of several New York City tourists riding CitiBikes, all New York City residents are familiar with the ubiquitous royal blue bikes all over the city nowadays.  This was a tricky costume to pull off and the students really appreciated it.


2018 — Bill/Brett Kavanaugh.  When a colleague of mine, Bill Kavanaugh, retired from Stuyvesant the previous June, I thought about going as him for Halloween.  Then, a few months before Halloween, the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings were a big topic on the news.  I couldn’t resist merging the two Kavanaugh’s into one costume.


2019 — Whole Foods.  There is a Whole Foods near my school where a lot of students and staff get lunch.  Every day there are 6 giant lines for the register and everyone stands and watches the bane of our existence — a big multicolored board directing you which register to go to.  I went as that board and pushed around a salad bar with candy for students to take with tongs.  This included an iPad app which I wrote that emulated the changing registers including the annoying voice saying ‘register 9 … register 15 …’ which I made by altering my own voice.  I even threw in a few math references like ‘register Pi.’  The costume was well received at my school but sadly not appreciated at Whole Foods itself when I went to show it off.


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9 Responses to My Seventeen Years Of Wacky Halloween Costumes

  1. Ed Detective says:

    Some good ones. Ali G was on point. I also love Occupy Sesame Street.

  2. J Land says:

    How did you make the giant calculator? Love your creativity!

    • garyrubinstein says:

      Texas Instruments makes posters with their calculators on them so I took one of those and mounted it on cardboard.

  3. "SJW" says:

    The level of racial insensitivity in some of these costumes (the Ali G spoof, Flavor Flav) is truly unbelievable.

    Gary–do you actually understand what the Ali G character is supposed to represent? And how racially fraught it is?

    From the Ali G Wikipedia Page: “Ali G is a fictional stereotype of a White British suburban male who imitates rap culture as well as urban Black British and British Jamaican culture, particularly through hip hop, reggae, drum and bass and jungle music, as well as speaking in rude boy-style English with borrowed expressions from Jamaican Patois.”

    And I am absolutely stunned that you put on a grill in the Flavor Flav costume. Seriously? A grill? How did you possibly rationalize that decision?

    Given the problematic comments you’ve made about race in the past (c.f. the “thug” comment you made after visiting a KIPP School in NYC), these costumes are even more worrying.

    Honestly, Gary, shame on you. You should know better. Especially in an era in which black students are woefully underrepresented in elite NYC High Schools like the one you teach in (

    And just to respond to your likely response that these were “a joke” and “harmless”–check your privilege.

  4. Rising Tide says:

    So, Gary, are you just not going to respond to the comment from “SJW” above?

    • garyrubinstein says:

      They make some interesting points. A teacher should be careful about reinforcing negative stereotypes. I’m not sure that those two costumes did that, but I can see the argument for it. I don’t agree that these crossed the line but obviously SJW did and his/her opinions and feelings are as valid as mine.

  5. yuri says:

    I think that SJW guy is trolling, look at the username. Don’t take him/her seriously, I thought those costumes were great ! I can’t wait for you to upload your wholefoods costume for 2019 !

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