Archive for June, 2016

As If Your Life Depends on It

It was early Wednesday morning (or late Tuesday night, depending on how you look at it) of Finals Week. Yes, I should have been studying — or sleeping; it was 3 a.m., after all — but I was young and in love, and wandering through the quads and into unlocked academic buildings on Penn State’s campus with my girlfriend held far more appeal than the problems and theorems in my linear algebra textbook. I remember a light snowfall and how beautiful she looked in the lamplight. I remember my surprise when I pushed on the main door to Sparks Building and it opened. But what I remember most from that night is a quote that a psychology professor had borrowed from a student’s paper and taped to her office door:

Many things depend on many things.


I don’t remember that girlfriend’s name. And I remember very little from my linear algebra course. But I’ll never forget that quote, and I’ve repeated it many times in business meetings.

de·pen·dent n. what hangs from de necklace

Dependence is a topic that rears its head frequently in mathematics, from algebra to probability, and it’s useful in a variety of contexts.

Football, for instance. Redskins safety David Bruton showed his understanding of dependence during a recent radio interview:

I’m between 225 and 230 [pounds], depending on what I had for lunch.

And measurement. Comedian Ron White understands dependence, too:

Now, I’m between 6’1″ and 6’6″, depending on which convenience store I’m leaving.

Some things aren’t really dependent at all…

The economy depends on economists in the same way that the weather depends on forecasters.

And some things are subjective…

Your true value depends entirely on what you are compared with.

Some things depend on whom you ask…

A teacher said to her student, “Billy, if both of your parents were born in 1967, how old are they now?”

After a few moments, Billy answered, “It depends.”

“On what?” the teacher asked.

“On whether you ask my mother or my father.”

And other things on your perspective…

How long a minute feels depends on what side of the bathroom door you’re on.

The location of an animal?

Where can you find polar bears?

Depends on where you lost them!

But the better answer to that joke is, “Just check their polar coordinates!” (You’re welcome.)

This post wouldn’t be complete without an obligatory old-person joke…

An old man is flirting with a woman at the senior center. He asks her, “If I took you out for a night of wining, dining and dancing, what would you wear?”

The old woman replies shyly, “Depends.”

And finally, one last math joke…

How many math professors does it take to plaster a wall?

Depends how hard you throw them.

June 20, 2016 at 7:17 am Leave a comment

Flag Day Math

Tuesday, June 14. Flag Day. It’s nearly impossible for mathy folks to not tell this joke today.

Several engineers were attempting to measure the height of a flag pole. They only had a measuring tape, and they were getting quite frustrated trying to slide the tape up the pole. They could get the tape no more than a third of the way up the pole before it would bend and fall down.

A mathematician asks what they’re doing, and they explain. The mathematician offers to help. She removes the pole from the ground, sets it down, and measures it easily. She then returns the measuring tape to the engineers, and walks off.

When she leaves, one engineer says to the others, “That’s just like a mathematician! We need to know the height, and she gives us the length!”

Those who know it will also tell this one, or a variant.

How do statisticians determine which banner to hoist?
They take a flag poll.

And then there are jokes about specific flags.

I’m about as motivated as the guy who designed the Japanese flag.

Japan Flag

Honestly, I want to stop. But I can’t. Just one more…

What’s the best thing about Switzerland?
I don’t know, but the flag’s a big plus.

Switzerland Flag

Okay, seriously… I didn’t invite you here today to listen to bad jokes. (Well, that’s not the only reason, anyway.)

I invited you here today to have a little Flag Day fun with math. The projectionist Shahee Ilya has converted the flag of every country into a pie graph based on its colors. For example, the Austrian flag has two red stripes and one white stripe, so it is converted to a pie graph as follows:

Austria Flag Hand Right Arrow Austria Pie Chart

Pretty cool, huh?

What follows are pie graphs for ten flags. Even if you are geographically challenged, I assure you that you’ve heard of all ten countries represented below. Can you name the country whose flag was used to create each pie graph?

Flag1 Flag2
Flag3 Flag4
Flag5 Flag6
Flag7 Flag8
Flag9 Flag10


Stumped by the challenge? Here’s a hint: The countries whose flags are represented above are the ten most populous countries on Earth. (Admittedly, had someone asked me to name the ten most populous countries prior to writing this post, I would have been lucky to identify half of them.)

And just to put some space between the pie graphs above and the countries whose flag they represent below (i.e., the answers), I include for your enjoyment one of the most hideous puns you’ll ever see, modified from an even worse version at Six Puns:

During a recent heat wave, a poll revealed that beads of sweat had amassed (mast) on the secretary’s forehead and a virus was rippling through the office staff. Although the boss knew that the secretary was very sick, he saw no reason to ban her from the office. Instead, he wrote a note with pennant (pen and) paper, and he flagged the issue to be addressed with the standard protocol.

If you tolerated that, you certainly deserve the answers…

Nigeria Pakistan
Russia United States
Indonesia Japan
Bangladesh Brazil
China India


Click on over to to see the pie graph for every country in the world. Clicking on the pie graph will reveal the flag and country name.

June 14, 2016 at 10:51 pm 1 comment

All 6’s and 7’s

Tech N9ne has said that the title of his album All 6’s and 7’s means “in a state of confusion and disarray.” Well, of course it does; that’s what it meant when Shakespeare (1595) used the phrase in Richard II…

But time will not permit: all is uneven,
And every thing is left at six and seven.

…that’s what it meant when Chaucer (1380s) used the phrase in Troilus and Criseyde

But manly set the world on sixe and sevene;
And, if thou deye a martir, go to hevene.

…and that’s what it meant when Sirenia (2002) titled their debut album At Sixes and Sevens.

Today, we’re at sixes and sevens, in a sense. The date is 6/7, and this post is all about the many variations of the classic math joke, “Why is 6 afraid of 7?” Think you’ve heard them all? Think again. You’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of variations that have been collected from the farthest corners of the web, but hopefully it won’t throw you into a state of disarray and confusion.

Why is 6 afraid of 7?
Because 7 8 9.

Why is 10 afraid of 7?
Because 7 8 9.
Some folks claim this makes more sense, since 10 would be next in line.

Why is 6 afraid of 7?
He’s playing craps and his point is 10.

Why is 5 (bes) afraid of 6 (alti)?
Because 6 (alti) 7 (yedi) 8 (sekiz).
In Turkish, the word for 7 (yedi) is also the word for “ate.”

Why is ε (epsilon) afraid of θ (theta)?
Because ζ (zeta) η (eta) θ (theta).

Why is 6 afraid of 7?
Because he’s a registered six offender.

Why is 6 afraid of 7?
It isn’t. Numbers are not sentient and therefore are incapable of feeling fear.

Why Windows 10?
Because Windows 7 8 9.
This was one of four jokes on the t-shirt worn by Joe Belfiore when presenting new features of Windows 10 at the Build 2015 conference. Microsoft never released a Windows 9 and skipped straight to Windows 10.

Why don’t jokes work in base 8?
Because 7 10 11.

Why do Canadians prefer jokes in hexadecimal?
Because 7 8 9 A.

(Star Wars)
Why is Yoda afraid of 7?
Because 6 7 8.
Don’t get it? Say it out loud using your best Yoda voice, and pause briefly after the 6.

Why did 6 break up with 7?
Because 7 8 9 out.

(Castiel from Supernatural)
Why is 6 afraid of 7?
I assume it’s because 7 is a prime number, and prime numbers can be intimidating.

June 7, 2016 at 7:37 pm 4 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.

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June 2016

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