The Two Things

July 26, 2017 at 7:49 am 5 comments

Economics professor Glen Whitman likes to play a game he calls The Two Things. As the story goes, he once told a guy he was an economist, and the guy asked, “What are the two things about economics?” When Whitman asked for clarification, the guy allegedly said,

For every subject, there are only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.

Do you think that’s true? I’m not sure it is. Then again, I’m not sure it isn’t. But it made me wonder:

What are the two things about MATH EDUCATION?

Think you’ve got an answer to that question? If so, post your answer to @pvennebush on Twitter using the hashtag #2thingsmathed. (Or go old school, and leave it in the comments if you’re not a Twitterer.)

Answer the question however you like — serious or funny; pithy or loquacious; as an educator, a student, or just a concerned citizen.

MORE_JOKES_FINAL_FRONT_COVER_1024x1024The best submission — as judged by me, using a methodology that will be completely biased and not in the least bit subjective — will receive a signed copy of the forthcoming More Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. That’s right. With a little creativity, you’ll be able to WIN the highly anticipated sequel to Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks before you can even BUY IT! How awesome is that?

The winner will be announced on Friday, August 4, 2017.

Over the years, Whitman has asked the question, “What are the two things about ___?” to people in a variety of professions. He’s collected quite a few of the responses at The Two Things page, but here are a few of my favorites:

Being an Executive Assistant

  1. The boss is always right.
  2. The boss is always wrong.

Project Management

  1. The schedule will slip.
  2. It’s all about managing the slippage.

Binary Systems

  1. 0
  2. 1

Computer Programming

  1. The only way to idiot-proof software is to take away their computers.
  2. Simple is better.

Software Engineering

  1. There is no such thing as bug-free software.
  2. Adding manpower to a late project makes it later.


  1. Hit.
  2. Don’t get hit.


  1. Include what’s necessary.
  2. Leave everything else out.


  1. Know the rules.
  2. Pay attention.


  1. Evolution is the process through which genetic structures that are better equipped to reproduce viable copies will tend to proliferate.
  2. Except for the platypus.

Civil Engineering

  1. Dirt + Water = Mud.
  2. You can’t push a rope.


  1. There is no such thing as objectivity.
  2. How the story ends will depend on your deadline.

UPDATE: Congratulations to @lauriesnowy! Here’s her winning tweet:


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Jeopardy!, Problem-Solving Strategies, and Keyboard Puzzles MORE Jokes 4 Mathy Folks

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen Craigs  |  July 26, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Two things about Math Education:
    1. Ratios are the factors of advancement and correlate all branches of mathematics.
    2. A little compound interest can spark any waning work ethic.

    • 2. venneblock  |  July 28, 2017 at 10:47 am

      I love it, Karen! My wife still talks about how a conversation with her father — a tax expert — about the power of compound interest encouraged her to invest in her 20’s!

      • 3. Karen Craigs  |  July 28, 2017 at 12:26 pm

        My dad encouraged me to read The Wealthy Barber. 🙂

        I think division is a keystone concept to opening up mathematics for young minds. You need it to understand ratios and percentages, which feeds directly into algebra, and then calculus and geometry, or probability and statistics, and so forth… We just start to scratch its surface in the third grade, but its repercussions are boundless.

  • 4. puntomaupunto  |  August 1, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    1. Math counts
    2. Education instructs


  • 5. venneblock  |  August 17, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Congrats to our winner, @lauriesnowy! I’ve updated the post to share her winning entry, and a copy of MORE Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is on the way to her!


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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.

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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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