Archive for July, 2016

3 Questions to Determine if You’re a Math Geek

Cooley and KevinYesterday morning on Cooley and Kevin, a local sports radio show, the hosts and producer each posited three questions that could be used to determine if someone is a real man. (The implication being, if you can’t answer all three, then you ain’t.) I didn’t like that many of the questions focused on sports, but I’m not surprised. I was, however, surprised by some of the non-sports questions. What do you think?

Thom Loverro (guest host):

  • Who wrote The Old Man and The Sea?
  • What was the name of the bar owned by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca?
  • Name three heavyweight boxing champions.

Kevin Sheehan (regular host):

  • Who was Clark Kent’s alter ego?
  • Name one of the two fighters in the “Thrilla in Manila.”
  • Who won the first Super Bowl?

Greg Hough (producer):

  • Name one James Bond movie and the actor who played James Bond in it.
  • Who did Rocky beat to win the title?
  • With what team did Brett Favre win a Super Bowl?

During the rounds of trivia, Loverro remarked, “If you can name three heavyweight champs but haven’t seen Casablanca, then you’re still in puberty.”

This made me wonder:

What three questions would you ask to determine if someone is a real woman?

One possible question might be, “Name two of the three actresses who tortured their boss in the movie Nine to Five.” Then I remembered that women don’t play the same stupid games that men do. And I realized that strolling too far down that path will lead to hate mail or a slap or both. So, let’s move on.

It also made me wonder if there are three questions you could ask to determine if someone is a real math geek. Sure, you could use the Math Purity Test, but that’s 63 questions. A 95% reduction in the number of items would be most welcome.

So, here are my three questions:

  • What’s the eighth digit (after the decimal point) of π?
  • What’s the punch line to, “Why do programmers confuse Halloween and Christmas?”
  • Name seven mathematical puzzles that have entered popular culture.

And my honorable mention:

  • What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

One of my initial questions was, “Have you ever told a math joke for your own amusement, knowing full well that your audience either wouldn’t understand it or wouldn’t find it funny?” But I tossed that one, because it’s a yes/no question that was personal, not factual. Eventually, which questions were kept and which were discarded came down to one simple rule: If nothing was lost by replacing a question with, “Are you a math dork?” then it should be rejected.

How’d I do? Opinions welcome. Submit new or revised questions for determining one’s math geekiness in the comments. 

July 15, 2016 at 9:06 am 3 comments

WODB, Philly Style

Given the subject line, you might think I’d ask which of the following doesn’t belong:

Philly Sports LogosSo many jokes to be made, so little time.

But actually, I was referring to something completely different.

PV_SDP_KeynoteOn Thursday morning, I gave a talk to 850 enthusiastic teachers at the School District of Philadelphia‘s Summer Math Institute. That may be the largest group to which I’ve ever spoken; it certainly exceeds the 600+ to whom I delivered my Punz and Puzzles talk at the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference, and it likely exceeds the number of people who heard me sing a karaoke version of Liz Phair’s Girls! Girls! Girls! after a half bottle of tequila — although that’s a story for another time. (Yes, I know all the words. But I’ve said too much.)

I was going to begin my talk in Philadelphia with the following warm-up question,

Quadrilateral MATH is similar to ATHM. What can you say about MATH?

because I wanted to ask the follow-up question,

What can you say about math?

taking advantage of the double entendre caused by MATH (a geometric figure) and math (an academic subject). Clever, no?

But I was worried that a high-school level geometry question might overshoot my audience of K‑8 and Algebra I teachers. So I was looking for an alternative.

That’s when Jen Silverman — to whom I owe a huge thanks and several pints — suggested that I do a Which One Doesn’t Belong using the letters M, A, T, and H. Based on her suggestion, I created this:


It led to a great discussion, both mathematical and otherwise. So, here’s my challenge to you:

Which letter doesn’t belong?
Post your choice and explanation in the comments.

If you’re not familiar with Which One Doesn’t Belong, then check out or follow @WODBMath.

I had always thought that the #WODB movement began with Christopher Danielson’s “better shapes” book, Which One Doesn’t Belong (forthcoming).

But then I found this activity sheet in Navigating through Problem-Solving and Reasoning in Prekindergarten and Kindergarten, which was published by NCTM in 2003:


So WODB is at least 13 years old, probably more. Anyone know exactly when or where it started? I’d guess Lola May, though that’s purely speculative.

Huge props to Karl Fisch, who posted the funniest WODB to date:

WODB Trump HillaryWell played, Karl, well played.

July 2, 2016 at 4:30 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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