Posts tagged ‘poem’

Pigs in the Gutter

Finals are just around the corner, and another semester will soon be in the books. Here’s a poem to relieve the tension for all of you preparing for final exams — whether taking or administering them.

Late in the fall semester,
Dressed in suede and polyester,
I was thinking ‘bout a theorem I’d derived;
So drunk was I with mathy passion,
Into the gutter I went crashin’,
And a pig came up and lay down at my side.

Yes, I lay there on my rear end
With my stinky, pinky new friend
When a woman passing by did softly say,
“You can tell a mathy creep
By the company he’ll keep” —
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.


I don’t want to, but I gotta…

We lay side-by-side in the gutter for quite some time — swine and co-swine.

December 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

Humorous Math Poem Contest Winner

Winner will be announced below; but first, I’ve got to say this:

May the Fourth be with you.


Congratulations to Lucie, a student in Russ Holstein’s class. She was one of 36 entrants in the Humorous Math Poem contest, and her name was randomly selected to receive a signed copy of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. Lucie’s entry was a haiku:

Don’t be dramatic;
It is just mathematics.
Easy: 1, 2, 3.

[Editor's Note: The middle line was changed from, "It's just…," to, "It is just…," to give it the requisite seven syllables.]

Other noteworthy entries were the following:

Dear Math,
I’m sick and tired of finding your x.
Just accept the fact that she is gone…
Move on, dude!
by Susanne

Oh, these numbers make me whine!
I am really doing poor.
If I learn this, will I shine?
by Angela

Dear Aunt Sally,
Please excuse me
For not following the rules;
I don’t have the right tools.
from wawrorl

I have a really geeky clock;
It has a special chime:
At 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11 o’clock,
It shouts out, “It’s prime time!”
by Chris

And my favorite, which seems to be a commentary on standardized testing…

Today we had a test, it was mathematical.
Which is very tragical.
And wasn’t all that fantastical.
I rather it be biographical.
Does it come from the capitol?
by Marie

Thanks to the folks at Thinkfinity for promoting this contest. All of the entries can be read in the Thinkfinity Community.

May 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

2012 Math Poem Contest

April is Math Awareness Month, National Poetry Month, and National Humor Month.

I tried to run a humorous math poem contest last year, and it was a remarkable failure. There were only two entries, and one of them was submitted after the contest ended. The winning entry can be found at the link above; the other, submitted after deadline by Chris Smith, is worth sharing, too:

Some folks, they dream of wealth and fame,
Or that some girl would know their name —
Pathetic! I reserve my slumber
For imagining my favourite number.
As rapid movement stirs my eyes,
No need for me to fantasize
Of infinitely distant wishes.
Instead I feast on π — delicious!

Not very good at learning lessons, I’m trying it again. But this time, I’m letting the good folks in the Thinkfinity Community run the contest, and maybe there will be more entrants when it’s announced to their 50,000+ members. That’s where you can learn more about this year’s humorous math poem contest, and you should post your entries in this discussion forum. If you’re a math teacher, you might also want to check out the discussions in the Learning Math group.

Got math? Got rhyme? Got iambic pentameter? Then let the world share your treasure! Post your entry here.

April 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm 5 comments

A Date to Appreciate

I’ve been thinking about dates recently. No, not the really horrific evenings that women used to spend with me. I’m talking about calendar dates. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot. Like several-hours-per-night, going-to-bed-much-later-that-is-prudent a lot. More on that in a future post, though. For now, here’s an odd little poem about today’s date:

Two, four, six, eight —
A four-digit number that’s really great!
Now multiply by nine, and you’ll calculate
The value of today’s calendar date!

Big props to my friend and colleague Fred Dillon for pointing out this cool fact.

In translation: 2,468 × 9 = 22,212, which is today’s date, 2/22/12.

Rock on.

February 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Matters of the Cardioid

HeartIt’s Valentine’s Day. Uh-oh… you didn’t forget to get your sweetie something nice, did you? No worries. MJ4MF is here to help.

Of course, you could make a Magic Heart for your special someone. But if Arts ‘n Crafts aren’t your thing, just copy one of the following poems onto a blank card, and your sweetie will be swooning!

Roses are #FF0000,
Violets are #0000FF,
Hexadecimal is awesome,
And so are you!

Roses are #FF0000,
Leaves are #00C000,
We express colors
In powers of 16!

What’s that? You don’t speak RGB? Okay, then try this poem by Michael Stueben called Valentine:

You are the fairest of your sex,
Let me be your hero;
I love you as one over x,
as x approaches zero.

For my money, though, the best math love poem is “Square Root of Three” from Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

Maybe you’ve been together a long time, and you no longer need to woo your sweetie. In that case, just make him or her smile with this poem from John McClelland…

A lady of 80 named Gertie
Had a boyfriend of 60 named Bertie.
She told him emphatically
That viewed mathematically
By modulo 50, she’s 30.

Or perhaps you’ve just gotten out of a relationship and are currently single. Here’s a poem you can send to your ex.

Rose are red,
Violets are blue,
Our love is like a poem
That doesn’t rhyme.

Or maybe you really don’t feel like celebrating. You’ve been jilted, and you are officially anti‑Valentine’s Day. The following MJ4MF original poem might be more to your liking.

My belief in love was completely destroyed
The day you ripped out my cardioid.
Your actions and words never equated;
Your emotions, randomly generated.
Up and down again, like the curve of sine —
My screwed-up, degenerate Valentine.
So I’ll tell you abruptly, and this you can quote:
F**k this day, and kiss my asymptote!

February 14, 2012 at 2:14 am 2 comments

The Humor and Poetry of Jims Maher

Yesterday, I received an email from Jims Maher containing the following joke, which he said he thought up yesterday in a real “facepalm” moment:

There used to be seven bridges in Königsberg.
Two were lost to war. Another two were demolished in peace.
So what does that leave us with? 

A slippery slope.

Coincidentally, Jims was also the only entrant in the MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest. (I will assume that everyone chose not to submit an entry because I announced the contest on April 1, so all of you thought the contest was a joke. Please allow me to harbor this delusion — it’s easier on my ego that way.) Consequently, a signed copy of MJ4MF is on its way to Jims. He said that he plans to “put it to good use as a prize in some fundraiser.” I like your style, Jims!

Because enquiring minds want to know, here is Jims’ award-winning poem…

Start at One

Numbers are counted.
One, two, three…
But some numbers are skipped,
It’s plain to see.

We never count zero
Because it’s not there.
And the imaginary numbers
Are as visible as air.

It is only the natural numbers
That we will count,
From one on up
To any amount.

However, the last number
Can never be known,
Because you can always add one,
However high that you go.

And so we keep counting,
From one, to two, to three…
With the natural numbers we keep counting,
From one to infinity.

Forgive the commentary, but I could not help thinking about mathematical definitions when reading Jims’ poem. According to Wolfram MathWorld,

The term “natural number” refers either to a member of the set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …, or to the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …. Regrettably, there seems to be no general agreement about whether to include 0 in the set of natural numbers.

Similarly, the James and James Mathematical Dictionary gives three different definitions for whole numbers: The set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …; the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …; and the set of all positive and negative integers …, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, ….

May 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm 3 comments

Up and Down — That’s Collatz For Ya

The Collatz Problem goes by many names — some call it the 3n + 1 problem, though it’s also called the Hailstone Problem, Hasse’s algorithm, and others. The Collatz Problem can be stated as follows:

Let a0 be a positive integer. Then, an = 0.5an – 1 if an – 1 is even,
and an = 3an – 1 + 1 if an – 1 is odd.

The Collatz Conjecture states that no matter what number you start with, the sequence will eventually reach 1. Originally posed in 1937 by Lothar Collatz, the problem is still unsolved.

Randall Munroe stated the following truth about the Collatz Conjecture at

Collatz Conjecture

In line with this week’s earlier post about the MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest, the following poem about the Collatz Conjuecture comes from poet and retired mathematician Joanne Growney. Growney uses a slightly different statement of the Collatz Problem; in her version, an = 1.5an – 1 + 0.5 if an – 1 is odd.

A Mathematician’s Nightmare
by JoAnne Growney

Suppose a general store —
items with unknown values
and arbitrary prices,
rounded for ease to
whole-dollar amounts.

Each day Madame X,
keeper of the emporium,
raises or lowers each price —
exceptional bargains
and anti-bargains.

Even-numbered prices
divide by two,
while odd ones climb
by half themselves —
then half a dollar more
to keep the numbers whole.

Today I pause before
a handsome beveled mirror
priced at twenty-seven dollars.
Shall I buy or wait
for fifty-nine days
until the price is lower?

April 5, 2011 at 11:26 am 1 comment

Humorous Math Poem Contest

April is:

With such a glorious coincidence1 of human-created holidays, I feel like I have to do something big. Monumental, even. But what? I thought about preparing a major April Fools prank, such as preparing a fake video about spaghetti growing on trees or publishing an article about how the Alabama legislature passed a law setting π = 3. But since those have already been done, I decided on something a little different…

Announcing the MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest!

Venn Diagram - April

That’s right! Submit your original entries of humorous math poems.

The format is entirely up to you.

  • Try your hand at the highly mathematical haiku.
  • Author a sonnet about your love of numbers. 
  • Use ALGEBRA to create an acrostic poem.
  • Or, get a little seedy with a limerick about doing problem sets late at night.

The only rule, really, is that your submission must be completely original. Please don’t copy a poem from another website or transcribe one of J. A. Lindon’s gems.

Post your poem in the comments section, or send it to me privately at Next week, I’ll compile all entries into a single post and create a poll so visitors can vote for their favorite. The author of the best poem, as selected by the readers of the MJ4MF blog, will receive an autographed copy of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks, as well as a special secret prize.

Good luck, and have fun!

To get the creative juices flowing, you can read a few classics below, or check out The Square Root of Three.

Pi goes on and on and on…
And e is likewise cursed.
I wonder: Which is larger
When the digits are reversed?
     – J. A. Lindon

I used to think math was no fun,
‘Cause I couldn’t see how it was done.
But Euler’s my hero
For I now see why zero
Equals eiπ + 1.
     – Paul Nahin

With my hands in a fire
And my arse on some ice
I’d say that, on average,
I feel rather nice.
     – an MJ4MF original (sort of)

1 Speaking of coincidence, John Allen Paulos wrote, “…though it is unlikely that any particular sequence of events specified beforehand will occur, there is a high probability that some remarkable sequence will be observed subsequently” (A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, p. 50). You might also like his first book, Innumeracy.

April 1, 2011 at 12:24 am 5 comments

Rhyme Time

My friend Josh Zucker created a joke about math and poetry:

Why don’t 8 and 15 make good poets?
Because they only relatively rhyme.

Painful, I know. Hopefully the following poems will ease the hurt.

The first poem yields a system of equations in two variables. I can tell you that using algebra is not so easy, but I was able to find the solution in about four minutes with an Excel spreadsheet.

Take five times which plus half of what,
And make the square of what you’ve got.
Divide by one-and-thirty square,
To get just four — that’s right, it’s there.
Now two more points I must impress:
Both which and what are fractionless,
And what less which is not a lot:
Just two or three.  So now, what’s what?

The following poem by Leo Moser poked fun at Paul Erdös’ tendency to publish important proofs in obscure journals.

A conjecture both deep and profound
Is whether a circle is round.
In a paper of Erdös,
Written in Kurdish,
A counterexample is found.

And one of my favorites from Shel Silverstein:

My dad gave me one dollar bill,
‘Cause I’m his smartest son.
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters,
‘Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters
and traded them to Lou
For three dimes — I guess he doesn’t know
That three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates,
And just ’cause he can’t see,
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!

And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the seed-feed store.
And the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad,
And he got red in the cheek.
He closed his eyes and shook his head —
Too proud of me to speak!

September 27, 2010 at 9:26 pm 2 comments

Math Talk

I have to admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of the books of Theoni Pappas. They don’t excite me in the same way that a collection of Martin Gardner’s problems or Ian Stewart’s math essays do. But I greatly respect the huge impact she’s had in making mathematics palatable to so many people. She’s written over 40 books, many for kids, and they’ve been very well received.

 A brief biography of Theoni Pappas appears on the NCTM website, because the Theoni Pappas fund sponsors an award through NCTM’s Mathematics Education Trust. Teachers in grades 9‑12 can apply for awards up to $4,000 to develop materials under the Connecting Mathematics to Other Subject Areas grant. 

So, what made me think about Theoni Pappas? It turns out that some folks on Amazon who bought my book, Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks, also bought her book, Math Talk. And though I’m not a fan of most of her books, I do love this one. It’s a collection of “mathematical poems for two voices,” and it contains quite a few gems. One reviewer at Amazon said, “This is a delightful, engaging introduction to the world of mathematics, giving children and adults alike a glimpse of the wonderful adventures that lie beyond simple (and boring) drills.”

A review in the NCTM journal Mathematics Teacher said, “Math Talk, in its novel approach, would make an interesting addition to the mathematics library for any age group.”

Below is a poem from the book. I’m surely violating copyright laws by posting this, but you can see this same poem by choosing the “Look Inside” link at Amazon, so whatever.

Math Poem, Theoni Pappas

I applaud her attempt to mix math and language, and I’m honored that my book gets to share a page with hers.

I hope you enjoy her poems as much as I do.

May 11, 2010 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.


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