Posts tagged ‘date’

Do You Have Mathopia?

When I was young, we spent a lot of time on highways, driving to and from our summer cottage. I’d see a Pennsylvania license plate like the one below, which at the time had five digits and one letter. Most people, I suspect, would be unimpressed. But not me. I’d say to my parents, “How cool is that license plate? If p = 26 and the cracked bell were an equal sign, it would be 23 × 26 = 598.”

PA License Plate 1971

My mom would respond with, “If you say so,” or a shrug. She had failed algebra in high school and would regularly and disgustedly declare, “How the hell can x = 6, when x is a letter and 6 is a number?”

My father — who dropped out of school to join the Navy at age 15 and had never taken an algebra course — would simply grunt.

Neither of them saw the beauty in numbers. I, on the other hand, couldn’t not see it. I wasn’t mad about this. I was just sad that they couldn’t share my joy.

On my commute this morning, I saw a truck with the number 12448 on the tailgate. I mentally added two symbols and formed the equation 12 × 4 = 48.

When my boss told me that he was retiring on January 4, I remarked, “What a great choice! The numbers 1, 4, and 16 are all square numbers, and 1, 4, 16 forms a geometric sequence.”

The truth is, it’s not really possible for me to look at a number — whether it’s a license plate, calendar, billboard, identification card, lottery number, bar code, serial number, road sign, odometer, checking account, confirmation number, credit card, phone number, phone bill, receipt total, frequent flyer number, VIN, TIN, PIN, ISBN, or any of a million other numbers — and not try to figure out some way to give it meaning beyond just its digits.

I’m not the only one with this affliction. All mathy folks have mathopia — a visual disorder that causes us to see the all things through a mathematical lens.

G. H. Hardy had mathopia. He looked for a special omen in 1729, the number of the taxicab he took to visit his sick friend Srinivasa Ramanujan. Upon arriving, he mentioned that he hoped it wasn’t a bad omen to have taken a cab with such a dull number. Ramanujan had mathopia, too. He replied that 1729 was actually “an interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.”

Jason Padgett, whose latent mathematical powers suddenly appeared after he sustained a brain injury, has mathopia. He explained how he sees the world:

I watch the cream stirred into the brew. The perfect spiral is an important shape to me. It’s a fractal. Suddenly, it’s not just my morning cup of joe; it’s geometry speaking to me.

This is the way that math people work. We see numbers and patterns everywhere, sometimes even when they’re not really there. Or, maybe, when they’re not meant to be there. And while I am not trying to imply that I’m anything close to Hardy or Ramanujan or Padgett, I do think that they and I shared one characteristic — the burden, and the blessing, of seeing the world through math-colored glasses.

World Sight Day, celebrated on the second Thursday of October each year — in other words, today — seems like a good day to bring awareness of mathopia to the masses. It doesn’t hurt that today is 10/13/16, a date forming an arithmetic sequence, in which all three numbers are Belgian-1 numbers. (See, I can’t turn it off.)

Do you have mathopia? What do you see when you encounter a number?

October 13, 2016 at 1:07 pm Leave a comment

You Say It’s Your Birthday

It’s my birthday, too.

Okay, not really, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it were. Today (September 17) is the fourth most common date on which to be born. Or at least it had been from 1973 to 1999 in the United States, according to an analysis by Amitabh Chandra, a professor of social policy at Harvard who compiled 28 years of birth date data.

Yesterday (September 16) was the overall most common birth date, and tomorrow (September 18) was the tenth most common.

In fact, all of the top ten most common birth dates occur in September, and even the lowest-ranking date of the month is still in the top third of the most common dates (September 5, #125). Apparently November and December are busy times for gettin’ busy.

It’s a busy birthday time elsewhere, too. Statistics New Zealand issued a warning about the excessive number of birthdays that will occur near the end of September.

How common is your birth date? Take a gander at the image below. Or, for an interactive experience, click around on Andy Kriebel’s version that uses Tableau.

Most Common Birthdays

This information (which is not new, btw — an initial analysis was completed by Chandra for a paper published in the Journal of Political Economy in 1999; a table with Chandra’s full data appeared in a column by David Leonhardt in 2006; and, various versions of the image above have been floating around the internet for several years) throws a wrench into the famous Birthday Problem, which asks, “At a party of n people, what is the probability that two of them share a birthday?”

The solution to the Birthday Problem assumes that birth dates are evenly distributed across the calendar. But clearly they’re not. How much does real data affect the solution, though? As it turns out, not much.

Using real birth date data from 1985-88 pulled from the CDC, Joe Rickert completed an analysis using Revelation R Enterprise 6. The results look like this:

Birthday ProblemOn the other hand, the theoretical probability of two people sharing a birth date in a group of n people is given by the formula:

\textrm{P} = 1 - \frac{365!}{(365-n)! \cdot 365^n}

And if you try to graph that formula, you get something like the following:

Birthday - Theoretical

Admittedly, I was lazy. The scatterplot above only includes n-values from 2‑10 and multiples of 5 from 15‑100. That’s because Excel can’t handle factorials larger than 170!, so I had to use a large number calculator online and enter the values into an Excel sheet by hand. Still, it gives a pretty good idea of what the shape of the curve.

A typical benchmark for the Birthday Problem is n = 23, when the probability of a pair sharing the same birth date first exceeds 50%. Using real data, P(23) = 0.5087, and using the theoretical model, P(23) = 0.5073. Good enough for government work. By visual inspection, you can see that the other values match up rather well, too.

Finally, here are some math jokes about birthdays.

Statistics show that those who celebrate the most birthdays live longest.

I only drink twice a year: when it’s my birthday, and when it’s not.

Happy integer number of arbitrary units of time since the day of your birth!

You don’t need calculus to figure out your age.

They don’t make birthday cards for people who are 85 years old. So I almost bought you a card for an 80-year old and a 5-year old. But they I figured no one wants to do math on their birthday.

September 17, 2015 at 3:51 pm 1 comment

Great Dates

Today is a great date, and I almost missed it!


Today’s date (in U.S. format) is the last time this century that the month, date, and year are consecutive numbers. If you choose not to celebrate this momentous occasion, you’ll have to wait almost 89 years for this to happen again.

Another great date with consecutive numbers happened 5 years ago.


That’s the date that Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks was published.

And I rather like 12/11/14. That’s just two days ago, when Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks reached a rank of 2,210 on Amazon. That’s the highest sales rank it’s ever received. Woo-hoo!

14 Dec 11 - MJ4MF Amazon Rank

Every year around this time, there is a significant spike in sales of MJ4MF. Ostensibly, it’s a good gift to give your engineer husband, statistician wife, or geometry teacher. And I am ecstatic that so many people are enjoying the book. But I’m wondering if we can blow the roof off of the Amazon rank; with a concerted effort, can we get the ranking of MJ4MF to below 1,000?

Here’s my request:

If you’re thinking of buying Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks from Amazon for someone as a gift this holiday season, please make your purchase of MJ4MF between noon and midnight ET on Tuesday, December 16. (Use this conversion chart if you’re in a different time zone.)

Ordering by Tuesday, December 16 will still allow the book to arrive in time for Christmas or the last night of Chanukah, especially if you have Amazon Prime.

Since Amazon sales rank is based on a 24-hour period, any purchase on Tuesday will help with the ranking, so we don’t need to be much more specific than that.

And if you’re not thinking of buying Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks this holiday season, well, what the hell is wrong with you? All the cool people are doing it.

December 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

Mathiest Week of 2013

Can you hear it? That’s the sound of the awesomeness approaching.

May 2013

It starts this Wednesday.


The month, date and year are consecutive terms in the Fibonacci sequence.

It continues on Thursday.


The numbers form an arithmetic sequence.

And then there’s Sunday.


That’s a Pythagorean triple.

Arithmetic sequence dates are a dime a dozen. In fact, there are six of them in 2013 alone. Pythagorean dates and Fibonacci dates are far more rare. There are only eight Pythagorean dates and six Fibonacci dates in the entire 21st century. To have all of them occur within a six-day span is incredible.

How will you celebrate?

May 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm 10 comments

Rootin’ Around

The digits of today’s date can be concatenated to make the four-digit number 4913, and 4913 = 173. As it turns out, this is the only date in 2013 for which the concatenation of the digits forms a number that has a square, cube, fourth, fifth, or sixth root that is a whole number.

I’m sure there are more useless pieces of trivia, but I can’t think of one right now.

[Update, 4/9/13: Perhaps the following isn’t more useless, but it’s certainly not more useful, either. I failed to mention the trivial numerology contained within today’s date: 4 + 9 = 13.]

In any case, this fact about the cube root of 4913 got me to thinking about some of my favorite things.

My favorite drink:

Root Beer

My favorite highway:

Root 66

My favorite LeVar Burton movie:


My favorite types of efforts:

Grass Roots

My favorite idiom:

Putting Down Roots

April 9, 2013 at 1:10 am 5 comments

A Date to Appreciate

I’ve been thinking about dates recently. No, not the really horrific evenings that women used to spend with me. I’m talking about calendar dates. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot. Like several-hours-per-night, going-to-bed-much-later-than-is-prudent a lot. More on that in a future post, though. For now, here’s an odd little poem about today’s date:

Two, four, six, eight —
A four-digit number that’s really great!
Now multiply by nine, and you’ll calculate
The value of today’s calendar date!

Big props to my friend and colleague Fred Dillon for pointing out this cool fact.

In translation: 2,468 × 9 = 22,212, which is today’s date, 2/22/12.

Rock on.

February 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Happy 100/9 Day

Today is a special day indeed. You may have already noticed that today’s date is the repetitive 11/11/11, but did you know that today is the only date this century that can be written in the form mm/dd/yy with one digit repeated six times?

Some people celebrate 3/14 as Pi Day, and to ensure complete precision for their celebration, the moment at which they celebrate is 1:59:26 p.m. In a similar vein, I suggest that we all celebrate “100/9 Day” at 11:11.11 a.m. today. Too bad 100/9 doesn’t have a Greek letter nickname for which it is better known…

Not too long ago, I was forwarded an email that contained several pieces of numerical trivia. The first was this:

This year we’re going to experience four unusual dates: 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, and 11/11/11.

Today is one of those dates, and it is certainly unusual for a date to contain only one repeated digit. The only other dates with just one repeated digit during this century are 2/2/22, 2/22/22, 3/3/33, 4/4/44, 5/5/55, 6/6/66, 7/7/77, 8/8/88 and 9/9/99. Since there are only 13 dates that contain just one repeated digit, it could also be said that 2011 is an unusual year for hosting four of them.

The email also contained the following:

Take the last two digits of the year in which you were born. Now add the age you will be this year. The result will be 111 for everyone in the whole world.

Blanket mathematical statements like this one are frustrating, especially when they are untrue. My friend’s grandfather was born in 1899, so he will turn 112 this year. For him, the result is 99 + 112 = 211. And my sons were born in 2007 and turned 4 this year. For them, the result is 7 + 4 = 11. In fact, based on data about age distribution, the result will not be 111 for approximately 15% of the U.S. population. The yellow bars in the graph below indicate the ages for which this trick does not work.

Age Distibution U.S.

A better statement of this “trick” might be…

Take the year in which you were born. Now add the age that you will be this year. The result will be 2011 for everyone in the whole, wide world.

Wow! Can you believe it? But it’s not much of a trick anymore, is it?

Happy 100/9 Day, everybody!

[Update] This post originally appeared as “Happy 10/9 Day,” but that was in error. I blame sleep deprivation. It has been updated to “100/9 Day” in all places.

November 11, 2011 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

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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