Let Me Translate For You
As any student of algebra will tell you, sometimes translating words to equations is harder than the actual math. For instance, the following limerick looks like a real bear:
A dozen, a gross, and a score,
Plus three times the square root of four,
Divided by seven,
Plus five times eleven,
Equals nine squared and not a bit more.
It’s a mouthful to read, but once you translate it to the equation below, you recognize that it is perfectly true.
This poem was written by Leigh Mercer, a panhandling palindromist who earned money by drawing sidewalk caricatures. He is also the one who gave us the famous palidrome, “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama!” Although the poem above is often attributed to math textbook author John Saxon, it originally appeared in Games Magazine long before Saxon ever put it in a textbook.
What can be more difficult than translating language to an equation is doing the opposite — taking an equation and figuring out the text from which it was derived. For instance, the equation 21x = 63 could correspond to the problem, “Walter Melon has 21 bags, each with the same number of apples, and all together he has 63 apples. How many apples are in each bag?” Or, it could correspond to, “How many dice do you have if there are a total of 63 pips?”
The following are some equations that were generated from quotations by famous people. Can you determine the original quotes and identify the authors?
- Humor = Tragedy + Time
- Success = Work + Play + Keeping Your Mouth Shut
- Necessities ≠ Wants
- lim (time → infinity) Lovetake = Lovemake
- Hesitation / Risk = Age
- Man = What He Has Done + What He Can Do + 0
- Results ∝ Effort
- Action = –Reaction
- Goals – Doubts = Reality
- Vlife ∝ Courage
- History = Σ(Things That Could Have Been Avoided)
- “Humor is tragedy plus time.” – Mark Twain
- “If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.” – Albert Einstein
- “Our necessities never equal our wants.” – Benjamin Franklin
- “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – Paul McCartney
- “Hesitation increases in relation to risk in equal proportion to age.” – Ernest Hemingway
- “A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do — nothing else.” – John Galsworthy
- “The results you achieve will be in direct proportion to the effort you apply.” – Denis Waitley
- “Action and reaction are equal and opposite.” – Gertrude Stein
- “Your goals, minus your doubts, equal your reality.” – Ralph Marston
- “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
- “History is the sum total of all things that could have been avoided.” – Konrad Adenauer