Archive for June, 2010

A Perfect Day

My sons have a cool birthday: May 2, 2007. It can be written as 5/2/07, and of course 5 + 2 = 7. It’s good that it has such a memorable pattern, because I’m terrible with dates. My wife will surely divorce me if I misstate the date of our anniversary one more time.

But I’m very jealous of my friend Dave, whose son was born three years ago today. How cool is it that his birthday is 6/28?

For those of you who don’t understand why I think that’s cool, consider this: the proper factors of 6 are 1, 2, and 3, and 1 + 2 + 3 = 6; likewise, the proper factors of 28 are 1, 2, 4, 7, and 14, and 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28. These numbers are called perfect numbers for this very reason — the sum of the proper factors is equal to the number itself.

Seventeen asked 6 and 28, “Don’t you two ever do anything wrong?”
“Nope,” they said. “We’re perfect!”

My love is mathematics, but my addiction is ultimate frisbee. I’ve played for 17 years, and my uniform number has always been 28.

A few years ago, I joined a new team, and the captain of the team asked us to email him our request for uniform numbers. Of course, I emailed and asked for 28.

He responded a few minutes later to say that 28 was his number, and I’d have to choose another.

I was dismayed, but I had a back-up plan. I emailed back and requested 6.

He responded again, saying that 6 was taken, too. Egads!

That weekend, we had our first tournament. I noticed that my teammate James was wearing number 6.

I walked over to him and asked casually, “Why did you choose 6 as your uniform number?”

I’m not sure why I asked, or what answer I expected. But his response was the greatest sentence ever spoken to me.

“Because 28 was already taken,” he said.

I didn’t like that I was relegated to my third choice for uniform number, but somehow his response made it all seem okay.

June 28, 2010 at 12:01 am 3 comments

Political Trivia and Humor

I stumbled across the maps of the problematic blog last week, which claimed the U.S. Senate was no longer necessary. It was part of a list of eleven unnecessary things, actually. The list also included phone books, beepers, the Electoral College, and pocket calculators. The author claimed that the Senate gives just 18% of the U.S. population the power to stop a bill from passing Congress. That is, if 50 Senators vote “no” to a bill, then it fails, and the 25 least populous states represent just 18% of the population. I didn’t check the author’s math, but I’ve heard similar estimates before, so 18% sounds reasonable to me.

Interestingly, the author implied that the Senate might have been necessary when it was first created, to give a voice to smaller states. This made me wonder — when Congress first began enacting law in 1789, what percent of the U.S. population had the power to stop a bill?

The first Congress had only 24 Senators from 12 states. (Rhode Island originally rejected the Constitution in 1788, delaying ratification until May 1790, when the federal government threatened to treat them as a foreign government.) Consequently, the Senators from six states had the power to stop a bill.

The populations (in thousands) of the 12 states with Senators in 1789:

  • Conecticut: 237
  • Delaware: 59
  • Georgia: 82
  • Maryland: 96
  • Massachusetts: 379
  • New Hampshire: 142
  • New Jersey: 184
  • New York: 340
  • North Carolina: 393
  • Pennsylvania: 434
  • South Carolina: 249
  • Virginia: 747

The total population (in thousands) of those 12 states was 3,342. The total population of the six least populous states was 568. That means that 568/3,342 ≈ 17% of the U.S. population could have stopped a bill in 1789.

Please understand, I’m not arguing that the Senate should be retained or abolished. But by the numbers, it appears that the Senate might have been even less necessary in 1789 than it is today.

Anyway, here’s a joke about math and politics:

A cannibal goes to the butcher shop and notices that mathematician brain is selling for $1 a pound, but politician brain is selling for $4 a pound. “Is the politician brain really that much better?” she asks the butcher.

“Not really,” he says. “But it takes a whole lot more politicians to make a pound.”

June 26, 2010 at 11:53 pm 1 comment

Twin Pi Day

Today (June 23) around 7:41 a.m. and 8:05 a.m., respectively, my twin boys passed 3.1415926 years! My wife didn’t think it was a milestone worthy of celebration, but 154 days ago, I missed the chance to celebrate their e birthday, and I wasn’t going to let another opportunity slip away. This morning, we celebrated with circular pancakes for breakfast, and we had pizza for lunch. Which reminds me of a joke…

What is the volume of a disk with radius z and height a? pi · z · z · a

At lunch, I planned to explain pi to the boys. I wrote the letters p and i on a piece of paper and set the paper on the table, and Eli asked, “Daddy, why did you put pee on the table?” That was the end of the lesson. (It was funny to me that he’d pronounce it this way, since the i at the end of his name makes a long i sound. But then I thought of some other words he knows — such as ski, mi (Spanish for my), and his friend Ani (pronounced ahnee) from school — and realized his mistake was completely understandable.

In regards to mispronunciation, here’s a thought to ponder.

Ya ever wonder how Euler pronounced Euclid?

June 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

Book Signing in Colorado Springs – Sat, June 26

Will you or someone you know be in Colorado Springs this weekend? So will I! I’m doing a book signing at Borders Southgate. Details below.

Booksigning at Southgate Borders – Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks
Why is 6 afraid of 7? How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a light bulb? What type of lingerie does a mermaid wear to math class? Learn the answer to these and other questions at Borders Southgate on Saturday, June 26, when author Patrick Vennebush will talk about his book, Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks.

Borders Books, Music, Movies & Cafe
2120 Southgate Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
(719) 632-6611

Saturday, June 26

June 22, 2010 at 8:41 am Leave a comment

Blog Carnival Redux

The MJ4MF blog was featured in another blog carnival, this one at Ramblings of a Math Mom.

June 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm Leave a comment

Reviewers’ Favorite Jokes

Sol Lederman of Wild About Math said that Math Jokes for Mathy Folks is “117 pages of pure (vs. applied) fun. […] While I’ve heard a number of the jokes already, there were plenty of new ones to give me a chuckle.” He also said that the following joke — which does not appear in MJ4MF — happens to be his favorite:

A farmer was showing his fields to a mathematician and his wife. The mathematician made continual attempts to impress with his intellect, referencing arcane formulas and then doing computations mentally. Frustrated by this, the farmer decided to teach him a lesson. He took them to a field packed with hundreds of cows and said to the mathematician, “If you can guess the exact number of cows in this field, you can have all of them! But if you get it wrong, I get to sleep with your wife!”

The mathematician thought for a moment, his eyes quickly scanning the entire field. Finally he said, “228.”

The farmer was stunned. “How on Earth did you do that?” he asked. ”There’s no way you could have counted all those cows so quickly!”

“You’re right,” the mathematician replied. “‘I counted their legs and then divided by 4.”

A review of the book also appears on MAA Reviews by Fernando Q. Gouvea, who said, “Several jokes appear slightly differently from the way I’ve heard them, which is par for the course: jokes are folk literature, and they change as they move from one person to the next.” I couldn’t agree more. If you tell a joke, you should make it your own.

Dr. Gouvea went on to say, “…if you like mathematical jokes, you might enjoy having a copy,” and he said the following joke was his favorite:

Q: How many topologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Just one. But what will you do with the doughnut? 

June 16, 2010 at 6:59 am Leave a comment


A friend of mine was recently lamenting all of the budget cuts that are happening at her school. She’s a high school math teacher, and I know she’s not alone in feeling frustrated. Here’s a joke for all the teachers out there who are experiencing similar frustrations:

Q: How many administrators does it take to change a light bulb?

A: What was wrong with the old one?

And speaking of folks who don’t like to throw things away…

When the dean of the engineering school requested more money for supplies, the university president sent him the following reply: “I don’t understand why you always need more equipment. Why can’t you be more like the math department? All they want is paper, pencils, and wastebaskets. Or maybe you could try to be like the philosophy department — all they need is paper and pencils!”

June 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm 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.

Past Posts

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