## Posts tagged ‘joke’

### My Son’s New Joke

My son is doing his math homework — he’s in first grade, so it involves writing a certain number, spelling that number, and finding all occurrences of that number in a grid of random numbers called a “Number Hunt.” Based on today’s number, he came up with the following joke:

What number is mostly even but not even?

Eleven.

Not a great joke, to be sure… but as good as most jokes on his dad’s blog, and he’s only six years old.

The homework was frustrating (for me), because my sons are capable of much more.

When my sons ride their bikes through the parking lot, they solve problems involving parking space numbers, the digits on license plates, and other numerical things. They ask me to create “math challenges” for them to think about as they ride. Yesterday, they solved the following three challenges:

- Which license plate has the greatest product if you multiply its four digits together? (The license plate format in Virginia is LLL-DDDD, where L is a letter and D is a digit.)
- How many different license plates are possible with the format LLL-DDDD?
- Each of the three rows in our parking lot has a different number of cars. If our parking lot had a fourth row, how many cars would there be in the fourth row?

For Question 1, Eli realized that the license plate with {9, 7, 6, 5} would have a greater product than the license plate with {9, 7, 6, 3}, since 5 > 3. But then he realized that {9, 9, 8, 2} would be even greater, and he correctly determined that the product is 1,296.

For Question 2, Alex thought it would be 144. His argument was that there would be 6 ways to arrange the letters and 24 ways to arrange the digits, and 6 × 24 = 144. We talked about this, and I pointed out that his answer would be correct if we knew *which* three letters and *which* three digits we were using (and they were all different). He and Eli reconvened and eventually claimed there would be 26^{3} x 10^{4} possible license plates… and being the good father that I am, I let them use the calculator on my phone to find the product.

For Question 3, the number of cars in the three rows was 2, 5, and 8. They extended the pattern and concluded that there would be 11 cars in the non-existent fourth row.

So you can understand why I’d be frustrated that Alex’s homework involved writing the number 11 repeatedly. I thought about telling him not to do it, but then I imagined the following conversation:

Alex: Would you punish me for something I didn’t do?

Teacher: Of course not, Alex.

Alex: Good, because I didn’t do my homework.

Or perhaps he’d just fabricate an excuse:

I thought my homework was abelian, so I figured I could turn it in and then do it.

And finally — should abelian be capitalized?

### Best Math Joke Ever?

If you do a search for “best math joke ever,” you’ll see that there is widespread disagreement. The following are some of what you’ll find.

The folks at Physics Forums like this one:

How does a mathematician deal with constipation?

He works it out with a pencil.

Sadly, the site failed to include this follow-up joke.

What kind of pencil?

A #2 pencil, of course.

Some folks at Yahoo Answers like this one:

An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar. The first one orders a drink. The second one orders half a drink. The third orders 1/4 drink. The fourth orders 1/8 drink, and so on. The bartender, a little overwhelmed, asks the mathematicians, “Hey, you guys sure you want to do this? Isn’t that a bit much?” The mathematicians reply, “Oh, don’t worry… we know our limits.”

From Mormon MD:

And the good folks at Blue Donut have taken the list of 100 funniest jokes of all-time — as compiled by *GQ* — and allow visitors to vote on them. Sadly, most of them aren’t mathy, but this one from A. Whitney Brown is.

China has a population of a billion people. One billion! That means even if you’re a one in a million kind of guy, there are still a thousand others exactly like you.

### Open Letter to Mathy Folks on the Internet

My friend Adam has this awful habit of explaining jokes that need no explanation. For instance, a conversation might go like this:

Adam: What do you think of that candidate?

Somebody: He’s an asshole. If he wins, I’ll be playing hockey and ice fishing by Thursday.

Adam: Yeah, or you could move to Canada to get away from him!

As a result, my friend Paul has given Adam the nickname *Tabasco*; to Paul, Tabasco sauce and Adam’s explanations are both unnecessary extras.

But I can forgive Adam. He doesn’t add this unnecessary extra in an attempt to explain the joke to others. I simply think the subtlety is lost on him, and he’s trying to make a joke that he supposes original.

I cannot, however, forgive people who provide explanations to jokes because they think you should find it as funny as they do.

I have a belief about jokes: If you need to explain it, then you shouldn’t tell it. Technically speaking, explaining a joke won’t kill it. It doesn’t need to; the joke is already dead. Explaining a joke because no one laughs is like giving mouth-to-mouth to a skeleton.

Recently, though, a rash of mathematicians has taken to explaining math jokes. Walter Hickey recently wrote 13 Jokes That Every Math Geek Will Find Hilarious, in which he provides an explanation for the math behind each joke. (If you’ve read this blog for a while, don’t visit that link. The only one you haven’t heard before is, “Two random variables were talking in a bar. They thought they were being discrete, but I heard their chatter continuously.”) And in the video Math Jokes Explained by Comedian Matt Parker, a rather funny mathematician does his best to remove everything funny from a number of classic jokes.

What’s the point?

Are they hoping that the explanations will suddenly make the non-mathy population find us undeniably witty? Or perhaps math-phobes will instantly find math less intolerable? (“Oh, my goodness, you’re right… that *was* a funny joke! I think I’ll go register for Diff Eq now!”)

That must be what they’re thinking, because the explanations aren’t for the mathy crowd. We already get the jokes.

So I offer the following letter to all those who feel the need to offer explanations.

Dear Mathy Folks on the Internet,

Please stop wasting bandwidth by explaining jokes.

If your jokes are funny, I’ll laugh. If I don’t get them, I’ll leave your site and search for one with jokes that I understand. And if I can’t find any, then I’ll search for sites with cool math problems or hysterical cat videos or, God willing, both.

If you want me to understand the math behind the jokes, then write a textbook, or post a video, or teach a class, or start a blog. After I know a little, then tell me your joke. And we can laugh together as equals who both understand why it’s funny.

Sincerely,

I. Don Gettit

### Summer Math Book List

The end of the school year is nigh. No more teachers, no more books. No more phrases like, “The solution is left as an exercise for the reader.” If you need some light reading for your summer vacation, I highly recommend *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks*. Until you get your hands on a copy, though, here are a few jokes about books to make you smile.

Why was the math book sad?

Because it had so many problems.Why did the math book become a recluse?

Because no one understood him.How many math books have you read in your lifetime?

I don’t know. I’m not dead yet.What book are you reading?

Flatland.

What is it about?

About 120 pages.

Seriously, here are some good math books to read on summer vacation:

*Calculus for Cats*by Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats*The Calculus Diaries*by Jennifer Ouelette*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time*by Mark Haddon*Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions*by Edwin Abbott*Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid*by Douglas Hofstadter*The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures*by Malba Tahan*Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers*by Jan Gullberg

*Prisoner’s Dilemma*by William Poundstone*Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception*by Charles Seife

And if none of those float your boat, try this one from Spiked Math.

### Mathy Jokes for Old Folks

The median age of the *Reader’s Digest* audience is 53.5, and 60% of their audience is female. So if I admitted to you that I’m a regular reader of the magazine, it’d be reasonable for you to assume that I’m an elderly woman.

I’m not.

In the “Laughter, the Best Medicine” column in the April issue of *Reader’s Digest*, two jokes were mathy. In case you missed them…

**Mathochism**

People with math anxiety actually feel pain when doing arithmetic, according to a study. The *Week* asked its readers to name this condition:

- Fibromyalgebra
- Arithmia
- Pi-graine
- Percentile Dysfunction
- Add Nauseum
- Digit-itis

**According to a global study,** American kids are way behind Asian kids in math and science. But American kids are ahead in buying stuff made by Asian kids. – *Conan O’Brien*

And in the “Quotable Quotes” column was a relevant quote worth sharing…

The moment you think of a joke is the best moment. – *Judd Apatow*

### One Joke Per Cent

So, I understand what Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh meant when he said:

I never thought you could feel 100% elation and 100% devastation at the same time. But I learned tonight you can.

But it sure sounds to me like he has twice as much capacity for emotion as the rest of us. It reminds me of Yogi Berra’s famous quote:

Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.

Or the anonymous quote about our favorite subject:

Mathematics is 50% formulas, 50% proofs, and 50% imagination.

Dare to guess what percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to identify the math errors in those statements?

Here’s a good old-fashioned math joke involving percents:

What’s a proof?

One-half percent of alcohol.

And a slightly longer one:

“Statistics is wonderful!” said a statistician.

“How so?” asked his friend.

“Well, according to statistics, there are 42 million alligator eggs laid every year. Of those, only about 50% hatch. Of those that hatch, 75% are eaten by predators in the first 36 days. And of the rest, only 5% get to be one year old for one reason or another.”

“What’s so wonderful about that?”

“If it weren’t for statistics, we’d be up to our asses in alligators!”

### Math Tom Swifties

Although my favorite Tom Swifty isn’t mathematical…

“I dropped my toothpaste,” Tom said crestfallen.

…there are plenty of Tom Swifties that are:

“Simple… closed Curves,” Tom replied when asked about the small loops with no endpoints that he had drawn around each of the health clubs on the map.

That one is an MJ4MF original. The rest of these were gathered from the farthest recesses of the Web, though you might think it would have been better for me to leave them there…

“From time to time, I like to draw a sine curve,” Tom said periodically.

“That’s a terrible drawing of a cardioid,” Tom said heartlessly.

“Your performance was average,” Tom said meanly.

“It’s six of one, a half dozen of the other,” Tom said symmetrically.

“Those numbers have no factors in common,” Tom said distinctly.

“Take the set of all positive integers,” Tom whispered discretely.

“Less than zero,” Tom said negatively.

“The cube measures 12’ along each edge,” Tom said with a lot of volume.

“The sum will increase,” Tom added.

“I like numbers of the form 2

k+ 1,” Tom said oddly.“Stand in line from shortest to tallest,” Tom ordered.

“It’s the product of rate and time,” Tom said distantly.

“One is a mirror image of the other,” Tom reflected.

“1.11111…,” Tom said repeatedly.

“I love three-dimensional shapes,” Tom said solidly.

“The factors of 6 have a sum of 6,” Tom said perfectly.

“The primes continue without end,” Tom stated with infinite wisdom.

“Three-halves,” Tom said improperly.

“I can’t believe I lost the election,” Tom recounted.

“Two and two do not make five,” Tom said nonplussed.

“Thirty degrees,” Tom said acutely.

“That’s a large angle,” Tom said obtusely.

“There is only one,” Tom said uniquely.

“It’s the quotient of two integers,” Tom said rationally.

“I now understand Newton’s Second Law,” Tom said forcefully.

“Approximately 2.71828182,” Tom said naturally.

“I don’t like groups, rings, or fields,” Tom said abstractly.

“I have to check the score on this exam again,” Tom remarked.

“The concavity changes here,” Tom said with inflection.