Reap What You Sow
Yesterday, our home owner association paved and painted the parking lot behind our townhouse. My twin three-year-old sons, Alex and Eli, were fascinated by the large, white numbers that now adorn each parking spot. They counted all of the numbers out loud, which ranged from 16 to 37. “Where is 1?” Alex asked.
The lot behind our house is Parking Lot B; spaces 1‑15 are in Parking Lot A. I probably should have explained this to him, but instead I just said, “There’s no number 1 in our parking lot. This lot begins with number 16. Isn’t that an odd number with which to begin a parking lot?”
He responded, “No, daddy. Sixteen is an even number, actually.”
I suppose that’s what I deserve for teaching my kids about parity before their fourth birthday.
This incident reminded me of the following joke, which appears in a slightly different form in Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks:
A teacher asks her class, “How can you divide 25 sugar cubes among 3 cups of coffee so there is an odd number of cubes in each cup?”
Bekkah responds, “Put one in the first cup, and put 12 in each of the other cups.”
“But 12 isn’t an odd number,” the teacher replies.
“Sure it is,” Bekkah replies. “Twelve is a very odd number of sugar cubes to put in a cup of coffee!”
This joke is typically told so that the teacher asks students to divide 14 sugar cubes into 3 cups of coffee, and the student says to divide them as 1, 1, and 12. I never liked that version, though, because the problem as posed by the teacher is unsolvable — that is, there is no way to divide 14 sugar cubes such that there is an odd number in each cup. Yes, I know it’s only a joke… but I like to think that a teacher would only ask a question that had a solution.