Posts tagged ‘jokes’

Excuses Are Like Graphing Calculators…

You may have noticed that there haven’t been very many new posts on this blog recently. I apologize for that. The following flowchart — an idea blatantly stolen from Brewster Rocket — provides my excuse.

Work Sleep Repeat

Since starting a new job in March, I’ve been working 60-80 hours per week. I’m also serving as the chair of the MathCounts Question Writing Committee. Mix in the time demanded by two energetic, six-year-old boys, and, well, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for making math people laugh on the Internet. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been funny as hell the past six months, both creating and delivering amazing one-liners. I just haven’t had time to type them up for all of you.

Not that you care about any of that. You come here for jokes, not excuses.

Here’s one about work:

The scientist asks, “Why does it work?”
The engineer asks, “How does it work?”
The project manager asks, “How much will it cost?”
The novelist asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

And here are 11 excuses I could have used, but didn’t:

  1. I created a great joke but then divided by zero, and the joke burst into flames.
  2. It’s Isaac Newton’s birthday.
  3. I could only get arbitrarily close to my computer. I couldn’t actually reach it.
  4. I had a really funny joke to share, but this blog is too narrow to contain it.
  5. I was watching the World Series and got tied up trying to prove that it converged.
  6. I have a solar-powered laptop, and it was cloudy.
  7. I wrote some jokes in a notebook and locked them in my trunk, but a four-dimensional dog got in and ate it.
  8. I was typing up some jokes when my wife brought me a doughnut and a cup of coffee. I spent the rest of the night trying to figure out which was which.
  9. I put some jokes in a Klein bottle, but then I couldn’t find them.
  10. I was too busy celebrating the coincidence of Einstein’s birthday and Pi Day.
  11. I was contemplating a formula for Phi Day, determining the first Friday the 13th in 2013, and wondering why Tau Day isn’t more popular than Pi Day.

September 21, 2013 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

Matt Parker Explains Math Jokes

I’ve learned one thing in my life — the least funny math jokes are the ones you have to explain. As E. B. White said,

Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process, and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.

Matt Parker, who did an interview with MJ4MF not too long ago, disagrees. In the following video, he explains some classic math jokes. Worth a look — his commentary on the jokes is far more interesting than the explanations.

May 21, 2013 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

Math Jokes, Yo! Let It Snow…

If you live near northern Virginia, then you’re stuck inside on a snowy day. If you’re bored and need something to do, you could attempt to solve the snowplow problem from R. P. Agnew’s Differential Equations (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1942).

One day it started snowing at a heavy and steady rate. A snowplow started out at noon, going 2 miles the first hour and 1 mile the second hour. What time did it start snowing?

If you can’t find the solution easily (or if you think that the problem is unsolvable), don’t fret. This problem has befuddled students for 71 years.

If you’re not a masochist, though, then you may just like some math jokes for a snowy day.

Math Teacher: We’re going to have an exam tomorrow, rain or shine.
Student: Great! It’s snowing.

What math do Snowy Owls study?

Or perhaps you enjoy jokes with more elaborate set-ups…

An elder in a Native American tribe is asked, “Will it be cold this winter?” Not wanting to appear ignorant, he tells them, “Yes, it will be cold this winter. I suggest you start collecting firewood to be prepared.” The tribe disperses immediately to start collecting wood. Meanwhile, the elder heads to a phone and calls the National Weather Service. He asks the person who answers, “Will it be cold this winter?”

The agent at NWS responds, “Yes, our early data indicates that it will be a cold winter.”

The elder returns to the tribe and tells them, “Keep collecting wood! A cold winter is on the way!” Just to be sure, the next day he calls NWS, and again he asks, “Will it be cold this winter?”

The agent responds, “Our data now suggests that the winter will be very cold.”

The elder informs the tribe, “It will be a very cold winter! More wood!”

Wanting to be certain that he is sharing correct information, he calls NWS again the following day. “Are you absolutely certain that it will be very cold this winter?”

“Yes!” says the NWS agent. “The Native Americans are collecting firewood at an unprecedented rate!”

March 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

Blog: Proofs from the Book

I told a friend that Guillermo Bautista had started an interesting new blog called Proofs from the Book. “Why would he do that?” my friend asked. “Proofs are so boring!”

I replied in the only way I knew how. “Well, that’s a given.”

Of course, I was making a joke. But lots of people are like my friend and think that proofs are boring. They don’t see the beauty in proofs, probably because they’ve never been exposed to the beauty. That’s why I’m so excited that Guillermo started this blog. His proofs allows students to glimpse the beauty and elegance of mathematical theorems discussed in school mathematics, whether it’s proving that the square root of 3 is irrational, providing multiple proofs for the sum of the first n positive integers, or having a little fun and “proving” that 2 = 1.

Two of my favorite proofs follow.

Theorem. Every positive integer is interesting.
Proof. Assume that there is an uninteresting positive integer. Then there must be a smallest uninteresting positive integer. But being the smallest uninteresting positive integer is interesting by itself. Contradiction!

Theorem. A cat has nine tails.
Proof. No cat has eight tails. Since one cat has one more tail than no cat, it must have nine tails.

An excellent proof relies on mathematical insight. The most exciting moment of my mathematical life occurred while I was walking my dog. Though I had found an answer to the Three Points on a Square problem, I had no proof that it was correct, other than thousands of examples generated by Excel. With no pencil, no paper, and no agenda — just some time to think — an elegant proof came to me as I was picking up feces. (I have no idea what that says about me.)

This is my favorite part of mathematics. I can literally spend hours reworking equations, drawing figures, and thinking about a problem, and I’ll make no progress. Then later, when I least expect it, when I’m freed from the confines of pencil and paper, the solution gently alights in my mind like a butterfly coming to rest on a marigold.

My hope is that everyone has a chance to see as much beauty in mathematics as I have seen, and Proofs from the Book is a place where you can take a peek.

The following jokes, taken from Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks, provide proof that math can be funny. Sort of.

Did you hear about the one-line proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem?
It’s the same as Andrew Wiles’ proof, but it’s written on a really long strip of paper.

At a conference, a mathematician proves a theorem.

Someone in the audience interrupts him. “But, sir, that proof must be wrong. I’ve found a counterexample.”

The speaker replies, “I don’t care — I have another proof for it.”

What’s the difference between an argument and a proof?
An argument will convince a reasonable man, but a proof is needed to convince an unreasonable one.

A meek man appeared in a court room, and the judge was incredulous when he read the charges against the man. “Sir,” said the judge, “you’re a well educated man. How did you end up here?”

“I’m a mathematical logician, dealing in the nature of proof.”

“Yes, go on,” said the judge.

“Well, I was at the library, and I found the books I wanted and went to take them out. The librarian told me I had to fill out a form to get a library card, so I filled out the forms and got back in line.”

“And?” said the judge.

“And the librarian asked, ‘Can you prove you’re from New York City?’ So I stabbed her.”

February 13, 2013 at 7:50 am 4 comments

22 Jokes From a Colleague

This past Sunday, I received 22 jokes from Keith Raskin, who has, among other things, too much time on his hands. Though some of them are clearly based on old chestnuts, Keith claims that they are all his original creations.

When I suggested to Keith that he had too much time on his hands, he responded, “Not much. Enthusiasm! Maybe brief obsession.” He proved his point by sending me another four jokes.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to keep these jokes to myself. I see no reason that you shouldn’t have to suffer, too.

Of the jokes he sent, there were six that I wasn’t sure I understood or just didn’t think were funny. The jokes that immediately follow are the 16 jokes that I understood and for which I saw possible inherent humorous value. The other six appear at the bottom of the post, along with Keith’s explanations. (Warning! When a joke has to be explained, it is no longer funny!)

A math student is told by his mother to set the table.
“To what?” he replies.

Which polygon is also a card trick?

I went to see Plane Meets Plane, but there was a long line. Not much point in seeing Plane Meets Line again.

Two barcodes go to a shady optometrist. They sit and stare at a light for half an hour. One of them says, “I think this is a scan.”

Two lines walk into a barcode. They hashed it out.

What does a vegan mathematician eat?
Roots, whole numbers, natural logs, tree diagrams, and stem-and-leaf plots.

Student: What’s infinity?
Math Teacher: Think of a number.
Student: Okay, I’ve got one.
Teacher: Good. That’s not it.

Student: What’s zero?
Teacher: The number of times something happens that doesn’t.
Student: What are the chances of that?
Teacher: Exactly.

How many mathematicians does it take to change a light bulb?
On average, or do you want the whole distribution?

In life, trees grow roots.
In math, roots split logs.

A guy goes into a math store exactly eleven times.

What did the 8 say to infinity?
Rise and shine, buddy!

What did the Venn diagram say to infinity?
Eat something, dude!

How do you solve any equation?
Multiply both sides by zero.

What did the trig teacher say to the triangles?
You’re all right.

Security Guard: I need some ID.
Math Teacher: Additive or multiplicative?
Security Guard: Yours.
Math Teacher: Ah, reflexive!

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the jokes that I didn’t understand or didn’t think were funny. But Keith admits he’s not going for funny. He’s a high school teacher and is “desperate for tension breakers and minor amusements or moments of actual  engagement.”

Yes, I know that I am not the official arbiter of what’s mathematically funny. But then again — if not me, who?

What is the binomial distribution?
A free lunch program.

(“Binomial” sounds like “Buy no meal.”)

Two circles walk into a club. They made a tree.

(The suit clubs in a deck of cards is made from three circles and looks like a tree. Add two more circles, it looks even more like a tree.)

How did every student get a score over 100 on the test?
They were percentages!

(Percentages are numbers over 100, literally: for example, a% = a/100.)

What are inequalities?
Read a newspaper.

(Social commentary.)

Student: What’s abstract reasoning?
Teacher: …

A guy goes into a beleaguered math store.
Guy: What happened?
Clerk: Well, we have wall-to-wall problems, our answers are still in boxes, and our solutions are leaking out.

Along with explanations for some of the jokes above, Keith sent along four additional jokes. Here you go…

What’s the ultimate epsilon delta argument?
Public education.

Did Pythagoras do the first PPT presentation?

What’s a pyramid scheme?
Death by triangulation.

How are filmmakers topologists?
There are open and closed sets, sequences that wind up in or out of the film, full attention to surface details, whether things are connected and continuity, and lots of coffee and doughnuts.

August 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm 8 comments

Bad Joke Tolerance Test

This is a tolerance test. (If, upon hearing that, you thought, “Mine is about ±3%,” then you will probably do fairly well.) How many of the following bad jokes can you endure? If you…

  • Have to close your browser after just one? You need some training. Read Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks.
  • Run from the room, shrieking, “Make it stop! Make it stop!” after just five? You, too, can be a bad joke survivor. Come back to this page every day for a week, and try to read just four jokes each day. Together, we’ll get through this.
  • Make it halfway? Good effort. Many great men turned back sooner.
  • Get through this entire list without groaning once? You, my friend, are a rock. The Army could use someone with your ability to tolerate pain.

Did you hear about the beautiful, cross-eyed math teacher who lost her job?
She was easy on the eyes, but she couldn’t control her pupils.

When chemists die, they barium.

I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.

A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

I don’t enjoy computer jokes. Not one bit.

Accountants watch their figures.

A math professor in an unheated room is cold and calculating.

The probability of someone watching you is proportional to the stupidity of
your action.

Mathematicians die when their number is up.

A gram cracker is a metric cookie.

Ten math puns appeared above, in the hopes that one would make you laugh.
Sadly, no pun in ten did.

Is ln(i) an imaginary lumber?

The volume of a robot character in Star Wars is V = r2d2.

There is a fine line between numerator and denominator.

Pentagon. Hexagon. Oregon.

Sorry, it’s true: i > u.

General Calculus is able to differentiate between his friends and enemies.

You can miss one math class, you can miss another… but after a while, it’ll start to add up.

i2, just keepin’ it real.

The international student was unfamiliar with algebra, so when asked
what 2n + 2n was, he replied, “It’s 4n to me.”

Two feuding math families were at odds over evens.

August 6, 2012 at 11:49 am 6 comments

Which Calculus Joke is Funniest? Nun of the Above

My friend Pat Flynn, a teacher at Olathe East High School, recently told me about his childhood experience with math education.

Sister Mary Constance only used her ruler to measure pain, not distance.

That’s one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a long time! Along similar lines…

What do you get if you cross a zero and a pigeon?
A flying none!

Pat is a calculus teacher, and I once heard some students discuss his humor.

When our calculus teacher would tell us a joke, my friend would laugh twice: once when he first heard it, then again when he got it.

Here are some jokes that Pat would surely like his calculus students to suffer through.

What did the calculus teacher ask the dazed and confused student?
“Young man, have you been taking derivatives?”

What’s the difference between a mathematician and a physicist?
A physicist will take the average of the first three terms of a divergent series.

But it’s not just calculus… Pat enjoys making students groan at every level, so here are some all-purpose jokes.

Why did the variable break up with the constant?
The constant was incapable of change.

Did you hear about the bodybuilding mathematician who was always positive?
He had nice abs().

January 13, 2012 at 10:41 am 1 comment

Best of ×, Worst of ×

The following is a very old joke:

“My life is all arithmetic,” the young businesswoman explained. “I try to add to my income, subtract from my weight, divide my time, and avoid multiplying.”

A similar joke, modified for current times, has been floating around Twitter.

Obama is great at math. He divides the country, subtracts jobs, adds debt and multiplies misery.

There are lots of math jokes that involve multiplication.

What tool is used most often in math class?

Where do math teachers eat dinner?
At the times table.

Minister: Noah said, “Go forth and multiply!”
Congregant: What did he want the first, second and third to to — add, subtract, and divide?

Teacher: Why are you doing your multiplication problems on the floor?
Student: Because you told me not to use tables!

And finally a joke for the upcoming holiday…

If you multiply Santa Claus by i, does that make him real?

December 7, 2011 at 12:54 am 4 comments

Free Copy of My Book

A few days ago, a seventh‑grade math teacher and assistant baseball coach sent me the following request:

I would love to have a copy of Math Jokes for Mathy Folks, but I am financially unable to purchace it right now because my wife is unable to work and hasn’t been approved for disability.

Now, I like to think I’m a generous guy, but I am unable to send a free copy of my book to everyone who asks for it. A little‑known fact about the publishing industry: The majority of authors actually have to pay for copies of their own book. It’s an interesting percent problem. I pay 50% of retail price plus shipping to purchase copies of my book, but I then receive a 15% royalty on the discounted price of every copy I purchase. (You can do the math to figure out how many books I could give away for free before going bankrupt.)

So I sent the following reply:

Send me your favorite joke(s), mathy or not, and I’ll send you a copy of the book.

My correspondent responded quickly with three jokes, two of which I had never heard before. A copy of my book is in the mail to him, and his jokes are pasted below for your reading pleasure.

What’s a seventh grader’s favorite excuse for not doing homework?
I have a solar‑powered calculator, but yesterday it was cloudy.

The student’s second semester seemed so much like her first that she hoped she could graduate sooner by combining like terms.

How is an indecisive third‑base coach like multiplying or dividing by a negative integer?
In both cases, the sign changes.

Incidentally, you can download one chapter of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks for free by clicking the following button:

Pay with a Tweet

November 1, 2011 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

Impromptu Performance

Ugly MugAfter practice last night, my Ultimate Frisbee teammates and I headed to The Ugly Mug for a beer. As Kevin, one of our single teammates, was trying to capture the attention of Haley, our lovely and sassy young waitress, a little white lie crept into the conversation. Serving as Kevin’s wing man, Worm said to her, “Seriously, Kevin is the funniest guy I know. He does comedy shows.”

This is not entirely true. Though Kevin occasionally delivers a witty one‑liner, his act is not stage‑worthy. He is a political scientist, not a stand‑up comic.

A little later Haley, unaware of the fib, asked Kevin, “So, where you do you perform?”

Kevin just smiled. “I don’t do comedy shows,” he admitted. “Worm was just messing with you.”

“But he has written a joke book,” said Rob, pointing an almost accusatory finger in my direction.

“Really?” asked Haley.

“Yes,” I admitted. “But it’s a math joke book.”

“A math joke book?” Pause. “Really?” she asked again.

“Yes, really,” I said.

“You mean like that joke about — what is it? — something about 7, 8, and 9?”

“Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9,” I reminded her.

“You have a whole book of jokes like that?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I do.”

“So, tell me another one.”

Were I young and single, I would have killed for this situation. I am absolutely certain that no woman at a bar ever asked me to be funny for her when I was in my mid-20’s. But being old and married, I politely declined.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said.

“C’mon!” my friends shouted.

This is the definition of pressure — surrounded by shouting friends, urging you to tell a math joke to an attractive young woman, while a bar full of Marines looks on. (Oh, hadn’t I mentioned the Marines? Our practice was at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, DC, and we were at the bar where off‑duty Marines get a drink. So, there were Marines in the bar. Lots of them. And those within ear shot were ready to be entertained by a good math joke… or at least by a numbers geek going down in flames trying to tell one.)

“No, no,” I said. “I couldn’t.”

“C’mon!” shouted some of the Marines.

(You ever tried saying, “No,” to a bar full of shouting Marines? Yeah, me, neither.)

“Okay, okay,” I agreed. “But just one.”

Surely in my repertoire of jokes I have one that would please this crowd. But which one?

The only one that came to mind was my favorite joke — but I didn’t think that a 23‑year‑old waitress or a bunch of Marines would appreciate a joke about actuaries. That’s when I remembered the Golden Rule of Joke Telling:

Know your audience, and adapt the joke for the situation.

Got it.

So, this attractive young waitress goes to the doctor. The doctor says, “I’ve got some bad news for you, Haley.”

“What is it?” Haley asks.

“You only have six weeks left to live.”

“Oh, my God,” Haley says. “That’s terrible news! Doctor, what should I do?”

“Are you married?” the doctor asks.


“Then you should find a guy who wrote a book of math jokes, and marry him.”

“Why?” asks Haley. “Will that help me live longer?”

“Well, no,” says the doctor. “But it’ll feel longer!”

My friends hooted. “Well done!” Kevin shouted. Some of the Marines guffawed, and a few of the others chortled.

But the joke was for Haley, so I waited for her response.

“On that note…,” she said, and turned and walked back into the bar.

Ah, well. Win some, lose some.

So, I’m curious — what joke would you have told in that situation?

June 10, 2011 at 9:43 pm 2 comments

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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.

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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