Archive for March, 2014

Math Pranks

Jeff Gordon recently pulled a prank on a blogger who claimed that one of Gordon’s previous pranks was fake. The video received 10 million views in its first two days, so it’s doubtful you haven’t seen it… but just in case (warning: PG-13)…

Now that’s a pretty good prank. Especially since it involves revenge.

But my favorite prank ever is a math prank. I don’t want to ruin it by telling you anything about it, so just watch…

That’s pretty good, no? Now be honest…

April Fools Day is just around the corner. Pretty cool that this year’s date is a palindrome in the U.S. (4/1/14) and a repeating number (1.4.14) in other countries. Here are a few more pranks to get you in the spirit.

In 1975, Martin Gardner published a Mathematical Games column with “Six Sensational Discoveries that Somehow or Another have Escaped Public Attention.” Among them was the claim that the following expression yields an integer value.

e^{\pi \sqrt{163}}

Not so much a prank as an optical illusion, the following image shows two tables that appear to be drastically different in size, yet both tabletops consist of the same parallelogram (one rotated 90° from the other). Cool, huh?

Parallelogram TablesAnd finally, here’s a number trick.

  1. Start with a three-digit number abc (|ac| > 1).
  2. Reverse the digits to form the three-digit number cba.
  3. Subtract the smaller from the larger.
  4. Now reverse the digits of the result.
  5. Add the numbers from Steps 3 and 4.
  6. Cube the result.
  7. Add 3,000,000.
  8. Add 40,000.
  9. Add 900.
  10. Use the following list to convert the digits of your answer into letters.
    0 – R
    1 – S
    2 – L
    3 – N
    4 – F
    5 – T
    6 – P
    7 – I
    8 – O
    9 – A


March 28, 2014 at 7:21 am 2 comments

Insanity, the Logic of a Mind Overtasked

I asked my friend what he knew.

I don’t know anything.

Who are you, the Barber of Seville? You know at least one thing, namely that you don’t know anything. A contradiction!

So he corrected himself.

I don’t know nothing.

Ha! If you don’t (-) know nothing (-), then you must know something (+). A double negative.

It was at that point that my friend stopped being my friend.

This is what logic will do to your social life.

Logic: a systematic method for getting the wrong conclusion, with confidence.

But it can also be useful for solving problems.

John had 50 candy bars, and he ate 45 of them. Now what does he have?

And we end this silliness with three pieces of advice from the king of bad logic, Yogi Berra.

  • Never answer an anonymous letter.
  • Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
  • You better cut the pizza in four pieces. I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

Hope you enjoyed or did not enjoy this post (but not both).

March 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

Big Math in Central Texas

Several weeks ago, I went to Waco, TX, to deliver the keynote session at the Central Texas Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference. But before we get into that, let’s start off with a little trivia about the Wacky City. Do you know…

What famous soft drink was invented by Dr. Charles Alderton at Waco’s Old Corner Drugstore in 1885?
Dr Pepper. (Note that there is no period after Dr in Dr Pepper. Why not? I have no idea.)

What university is currently located in Waco? BONUS: What university used to be located in Waco?
Baylor University; Texas Christian University.

What “wild and crazy” comedian was born in Waco?
Steve Martin.

After the presentation, I had the pleasure of meeting Ashleyanne Thornhill, who has a Pinterest page with over 300 math jokes. Definitely worth checking out.

My keynote presentation was Exploring Rich Problems with Technology and Online Resources. The following is one of the problems that I shared with the audience.

In the 2 × 3 multiplication table below, the numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, and 11 are used to replace the variables a, b, c, d, and e.

The six products are then found, and the sum of the products is calculated. What is the maximum possible sum of the six products?

The technology we used to explore that problem was Microsoft Excel. (You can see how we did it by visiting Multiplication Table at the MJ4MF website.) Not a new technology, to be sure, but an effective one.

As for new technology, I recommended three math apps that I think are worth knowing about:

The presentation went very well. For my efforts, I was given a Baylor Bears t-shirt, a BU hat, and I was named an “honorary bear.” Yee-haw!

What are some of your favorite technologies — old or new — for investigating mathematics?

I also presented a breakout session titled Punz and Puzzles. For those of you who weren’t able to join us in Waco but who will be attending the NCTM Annual Meeting, April 9‑12 in New Orleans, I’ll be giving a similar presentation titled Punz and Puzzles: Creating Environments Where Laughing and Learning Coexist, on Saturday, April 12, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in Room 214 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Hope to see you there!

March 25, 2014 at 11:24 pm 6 comments

It’s Not About the Standards

Dear Indiana,

It’s not about the standards.

I’m very glad that you have abandoned the Common Core, “designed [your] own standards” and, according to Gov. Mike Pence, “done it in a way where we drew on educators, we drew on citizens, we drew on parents.” This sounds familiar. Where have I heard such rhetoric before? Oh, that’s right… the NGA and CCSSO sang the praises of a similar process when the Common Core standards were developed.

And I love what you’ve done with your new standards! Look at this gem from the proposed Indiana standards for Grade 6:

Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

You radicals, you! What a deviation from the Common Core State Standards for Grade 6! To wit:

Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

How dare those pundits who called your new standards nothing more than a “warmed-over version” of the Common Core! I don’t think that’s true at all. Rather, I think they are better described as a “still-warm version,” since you didn’t let Common Core’s body get cold before pilfering verbiage.

But there are differences, to be sure. Like with ratios, where you ask students to know the three notations of a/b, a:b, and a to b. Well, bully for you! Chart your own course! Spread your wings!

Personally, I cannot wait for the new Indiana standards to be passed on April 28, and your school districts can once again adjust their curriculum, and teachers can change their lesson plans, in preparation for the new standards. Won’t that be fun, just two years after they started adjusting curriculum and changing lesson plans to prepare for Common Core? Perhaps they’ll get to do it again in 2017, when the political winds shift and his constituents decide that Governor Pence needs a different job.

Indiana - Uncommonly HighAnd by the way, Governor Pence, I’d like to commend your cheeky use of the phrase “uncommonly high” to describe the new Indiana state standards. Bravo! What better way to trumpet your DOE’s good work than to sound like a Keebler elf at a NORML rally?

I cannot wait until that becomes the new state motto and starts appearing on license plates.

But I digress, so let me return to my point.

It’s not about the standards.

It’s not about whether students solve quadratic equations by plugging numbers into the quadratic formula or by completing the square. It’s not about whether students should graph quadratic functions with a calculator or by hand. It’s not even about whether or not students should learn about quadratics.

It’s about effective teaching and student learning.

It’s about a common discussion regarding what needs to happen in math education.

It’s about teachers from Wisconsin and California and Vermont and Alabama engaged in dialogue as professionals, in a community where their opinions matter and they are not merely enacting a pacing guide created to fulfill state mandates.

When I travel to New Orleans in a few weeks for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting, there’ll be conversations between educators from different states. And sure, some of those conversations will be about effective strategies and exceptional classroom activities. But most of them will be comparing the classroom ramifications of political decisions.

  • Oh, you get to teach math on a block schedule? That’s what our teachers wanted, but our administrators wouldn’t go for it.
  • I would LOVE to have a SMART Board in my class. But our school board voted for new football uniforms instead of more technology.
  • Well, maybe you thought it was good, but our district doesn’t teach adding fractions until Grade 7, so I’m not sure anything covered in this workshop will be relevant to me.

Don’t get me wrong, Hoosiers. I’m not mad at the state of Indiana. Hell, I love auto racing, Larry Bird, and corn. Instead, I’m frustrated at the state of education. How did we let things come to this?


Ed U. Kader

March 25, 2014 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

Math is Retarded

Eugene MirmanI have neither the talent nor the popularity of stand-up comedian Eugene Mirman. (As an example of his talent, you can check out the commencement speech he gave at Hampshire College in 2012. As evidence of his popularity, he often appears on StarTalk Radio with Neil de Grasse Tyson.)

Nor do I have the chutzpah.

In 2005, he received an email with subject line, “You Suck.” After several other messages from Mike and Josh, two email hecklers from Connecticut, they asked if he’d invite them on stage during his show in New Haven.

He did.

He then read one of their emails to the audience (in my opinion, giving these buffoons more stage time than they deserved). But then he proceeded to flame them, using material he found on the Internet. Mike was on stage during this roasting; Josh, however, had not come to the show.

Josh got the worst of it.

You can see the entire exchange on YouTube, but this is what Mirman said about Josh:

Josh, there is less about you on the Web, but your email address — mathisretarded — speaks volumes. Let me get this straight. Here’s a situation: You approach a hooker. She tells you a blowjob will cost $15, but you only have a twenty. And you think figuring out the change “is retarded.” I’ll tell you what it is, don’t worry. It’s $5.

Josh, without math, we wouldn’t have computers or email. Without math, we wouldn’t know how many lonely, naked Asian teens there are in the world. There are over 7,500. Sorry to use such a big number, Josh. Let me try to help you understand it. Imagine how retarded you are. Now multiply that by 1. That’s right — you’re 7,500 retarded.

That’s pretty much it.

Should I ever have need to put an email heckler in his or her place, I hope I have both the guts and eloquence to do it as effectively as Eugene Mirman.

And no, that is not meant to be an invitation to heckle me just to see if I’m up to the challenge.

March 20, 2014 at 6:19 am 2 comments

All Beer and Skittles

The winter has been unkind to my waist, so I joined a month-long fitness challenge at the gym. I asked one of the trainers what I should do to win. “Drink 25 beers on Saturday night,” he said.


“Because the weigh-in is Sunday morning, and you want to be heavy as possible.”

“Yeah, I get that,” I replied. “But there are 24 bottles in a case. Okay if I stop there?”

How many is too many? Hard to say…

Teacher: If I had 5 bottles in one hand and 6 bottles in the other hand, what would I have?
Student: A drinking problem?

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, here are a few more beer jokes.

If you pour root beer in a square cup, will it become beer?

And who doesn’t like a joke that makes fun of professors?

A literature professor, a computer scientist, and a mathematician head to a pub. They each order a pint of beer, and when the drinks are brought to the table, each pint has a fly in it.

The literature professor pushes her beer away in disgust.

The computer scientist removes the fly and proceeds to drink his beer.

The mathematician picks the fly out of his drink, too, but then holds it out over the beer and yells, “Spit it out, you little bastard!”

March 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm 2 comments

What Time Is It?

Here’s a math puzzle that is rather easy. Or is it?

You look in a mirror and see the reflection of a clock. In the reflection, the clock appears to show a time of 11:51. What is the real time?

Before I share the solution, how ’bout some clock jokes?

A hungry clock goes back four seconds.

I spent 35 minutes fixing a broken clock yesterday.
At least, I think it was 35 minutes…

What’s the difference between a man and a broken clock?
At least a broken clock is right twice a day.

It took me four hours to eat a dozen clocks.
It was very time consuming.

An alarm clock made of herbs will help you wake up on thyme.

My clock stopped at 8:23 a.m. I’m going to have a day of morning.

Puzzle Solution

The puzzle above is based on a math trivia question I found at Trivia Cafe.

The answer could be 12:09, if the reflection in the mirror looks like this…

11:51 Analog Clock

Then again, the answer could be 12:11, if the reflection in the mirror looks like this…

11:51 Digital Clock

And of course, there are all the silly possibilities — for instance, if the clock is broken, it doesn’t matter what time shows in the reflection, regardless if it’s analog or digital.

March 8, 2014 at 4:22 am 1 comment

The Force is Strong with This One

My sons are now six years old. It’s high time they’ve seen Star Wars. Some would argue I’ve already waited too long.

Star WarsSo we borrowed the six DVD set from a neighbor — yes, I’m a terrible geek who doesn’t own the set myself. Just as we settled in to watch it, my phone rang. Foolishly, I went upstairs and answered it. I got into a ten-minute phone call with an old friend. About once a minute, my wife would come upstairs and ask, “Can we start the movie?” and I would answer, “No.”

Finally, she stopped asking and just started the movie. I heard the sound of Imperial gunfire and C-3PO say, “Did you hear that? They shut down the main reactor. We’ll be destroyed for sure!”

I told my friend, “I have to go.”

“Why would you start it without me?” I asked my wife.

“You were on the phone.”

“I know,” I said. “But I want to watch it with the boys.”

“It just started. You didn’t miss much.”

“I missed the opening text and half of the first scene!”

“Why are you so upset?” she asked.

She just didn’t get it.

Watching Star Wars is a rite of passage, meant to be shared by father and son. And I wanted to share every frame with them. It’s replaced buying your son a beer on his 21st birthday as the most important moment between a father and son.

Okay, maybe I’m overstating it.

But, still. It’s important. I wanted to be there for this one, since there are so many other rites to which I won’t be privy.

His first kiss.

His first beer.

His first strip club.

His first Möbius strip club — where the ladies are beautiful, but they’ll only show you one side.

His first road trip.

His first math purity test.

His first attempt to trisect an angle.

And the list goes on.

But the real reason I’m writing this. The incident above happened two days ago, and we’ve watched Episode IV. As a purist, I believe you have to watch the original first. But now what? Do I go with Machete Order for the remaining five? Or ascending? Chronological? Help, please!

March 5, 2014 at 5:04 am 2 comments

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

March 2014

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