## Archive for March 12, 2015

### Will the Real Steve Reinhart Please Stand Up?

I met Steve Reinhart when he was a presenter at a 2001 NCTM Academy in Branson, MO. I only met him that one time, yet he had a profound effect on my teaching philosophy. Read his article “Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say!” and you’ll see why.

Last week, I met a second Steve Reinhart who works for an educational publisher. I asked the second one if he knew the first one, and he told me a funny story about how he was in his hotel room at a conference, and the door to his room opened. He looked at the guy standing there, realized what happened and asked, “Steve Reinhart?” And the first Steve Reinhart said, “Yep,” paused for a second, then asked, “Are you Steve Reinhart, too?” And the second one said, “Yep.” With the same name, when the first one showed up but there was already one checked in, the hotel receptionist gave the first a key to a room already occupied by the second.

Now, that’s a funny coincidence.

What does a mathematician do when it starts to rain?

Coincide.

At the end of my senior year of college, I finished my last final on Friday afternoon. I then worked 8 hours, headed home and pulled an all-nighter cleaning our apartment before returning the key on Saturday morning, and then headed to work for another 12-hour shift. After work, I trekked to the on-campus hotel where my best friend and I would stay the night before going our separate ways. After nearly 50 hours awake and a 3-mile walk, I was delirious when I arrived at the hotel. I told the hotel clerk my name, and he handed me a key. I walked wearily to the elevator, exited at the second floor, looked at the key to check the room number (it was the olden days — the room number was etched on the brass key that I was given), and proceeded to Room 222.

When I opened the door, a naked, middle-aged woman lying in the bed quickly pulled the sheets over herself, and a naked, middle-aged man sitting on the toilet with the bathroom door ajar gave me a look I’ll never forget. I said, “Oh, my gosh! I’m so sorry,” then quickly exited and closed the door. I heard some indecipherable yelling come from the room as I made my way down the hall.

I returned to the lobby, explained that I must have been given the wrong key, and told the receptionist what I had seen. “I’m very sorry, Mr. Vennebush,” he told me.

“No apology necessary,” I said. “But I don’t think I’m the one you need to be worried about.”

And then, as if on queue, the elevator door opened across the lobby, and an irate-but-now-clothed guest yelled, “What the f**k kind of place is this?”

That was **not** a funny coincidence.

This is just a funny mathematical coincidence:

And the crazy part? It’s accurate to within 0.00002.

But as far as coincidences go, this is good advice:

It’s far more likely for something to seem suspicious and turn out to be nothing, than for something to seem like nothing and wake up to a smoking crater where your city used to be.