Archive for September 3, 2010

The Perfect Pack

I have a quirk.

Okay, truth be known, I have many. But this post is only going to elaborate on a particular mathematical quirk that I have, which involves eating M&M’s. (Most of my other quirks aren’t interesting enough to warrant a blog post. And those that are probably shouldn’t be publicized.)

I have to eat M&M’s in pairs of the same color. I place two in my mouth at a time, and I chew one on each side. I can’t eat them one at a time, and I can’t eat two M&M’s of different colors at the same time. It’s a balance thing. I’ve done this since I was a kid, and whether it’s just a bad habit or a deeply engrained compulsion, I don’t worry about it too much. Sure, it’s a little weird, but on the OCD continuum, it’s not a big deal. I mean, it’s not like I use a ruler to ensure that stamps are placed exactly the same distance from both sides of the envelope. (Though I have considered it.)

So, the math of this. I have been searching for the “perfect pack of M&M’s,” one in which there is an even number of every color. That way, I won’t have one leftover after I eat the others in pairs. I don’t know how many packs of M&M’s I’ve eaten in my life, but I’ve yet to find a perfect pack. Consequently, it would seem that the experimental probability of such an occurrence is 0. But what is the theoretical probability?

Stated formally, here’s the problem:

A standard pack of M&M’s contains pieces of six different colors. What is the probability that there will be an even number of M&M’s of each of the six colors?

I’ll post my solution in a couple days. In the meantime, here are two math jokes about M&M’s:

How many mathematicians does is take to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies?
Two. One to mix the batter, and one to peel the M&M’s.

How do you keep a math graduate student occupied for hours?
Ask him to alphabetize a bag of M&M’s.

September 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm 3 comments


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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.

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