Serious Math, Seriously…

January 13, 2013 at 8:40 am 6 comments

“Patrick, I have to ask you a question,” said Martha. “You have written a book of math jokes… so, how are you so very serious?”

In my 41.82 years, this is the first time that anyone had ever used the word serious to describe anything about me.

Clearly, Martha doesn’t know me.

Then again, perhaps Martha’s perception is based on me doing things like stating my age as a decimal to the nearest hundredths.

Martha and I had only been introduced two days earlier. We were both asked to participate in a quality review session for the Math Snacks project at the Learning Games Lab at NMSU — which, by the way, is a great project; I particularly like the Bad Date video and the Gate video game — so she hadn’t really had much time to get to know me.

Math Snacks Logo

But it made me wonder… do other people think I’m too serious, too?

To correct this false perception, here are some non-serious things I’ve done:

  • I regularly pretend that one button is broken on my calculator, and then have to figure out alternate methods to calculate the value of long expressions. (On one particularly zany day, I pretended that two buttons were broken. Boy, did that ever lead to some crazy misadventures!)
  • One afternoon — when the curtains were not drawn — I danced if no one were watching. The tune that put my backfield in motion? New Math by Tom Lehrer.
  • I once used the phrase “backfield in motion” in a math blog post.
  • In an academic paper submitted to a prestigious journal, I once reported a result to three significant figures, even though I was well aware that only two significant figures were justified.
  • At a bookstore, I paid for a copy of Innumeracy entirely with pennies.
  • On my way to a lecture, I asked a passer-by for directions to the lecture hall. She pointed straight ahead… and I turned around and walked the other way.
  • I regularly wear a hat that reads, “Shut your πhole.”
  • When someone enters the elevator and says, “Seven, please,” I push the 2 and 5 buttons and say, “There ya go. That makes 7.”
  • When a telemarketer asks, “How are you doing?” I usually say, “I’m great, thanks. And I’m glad you called, because — boy! — do I have an exciting offer for you! Do you like to laugh? Do you like math? For $12 — or the cost of just two venti, non-fat, no foam, no water, six pump extra, hot chai tea lattes at Starbucks — you can have a personally signed copy of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks delivered right to your door! That’s right, just $12! How many copies can I put you down for?”

Gee, I sure hope Martha reads this…

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. laurie  |  January 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Not sure about the “serious/non-serious” debate, but we definitely have nerd evidence here… (gonna use that elevator one, though!)

    • 2. venneblock  |  January 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Go forth and prosper, Laurie! Let me know how it goes. I’ve found that not everyone appreciates the humor in the elevator joke…

  • 3. Barbara Chamberlin  |  January 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I think you are very funny. I was once told by a colleague that I was not funny, and it scarred me for life. I’m just now regaining my sense of nyuk nyuk.

    • 4. venneblock  |  January 16, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      I tell colleagues all the time that they’re not funny, and I don’t really mean it. Like recently, I told a coworker she wasn’t funny right after she said it looked like I had only shaved one side of my face that morning. (Sadly, she wasn’t trying to be funny. Lesson learned: Don’t shave with the light off just to avoid waking your wife.)

  • 5. Shaun Kwong  |  January 30, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    An old woman is riding in an elevator in a very lavish New York City Building, when a young and beautiful woman gets into the elevator, smelling of expensive perfume. She turns to the old woman and says arrogantly, “Romance by Ralph Lauren, $150 an ounce!” Then another young woman gets on the elevator wearing expensive perfume, and also very arrogantly turns to the old woman saying, “Chanel No. 5, $200 an ounce!” Three floors later, the old woman reaches her destination and is about to get off the elevator. Before she leaves, she looks both women in the eye, bends over, farts, and says, “Broccoli, 49¢ a pound!”

    • 6. venneblock  |  February 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Shaun, while I have no idea why you’d share that joke about the old lady on a math blog, I laughed a little to hard to not approve it. Keep ’em coming!


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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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