Posts tagged ‘Martin Gardner’

Math Pranks

Jeff Gordon recently pulled a prank on a blogger who claimed that one of Gordon’s previous pranks was fake. The video received 10 million views in its first two days, so it’s doubtful you haven’t seen it… but just in case (warning: PG-13)…

Now that’s a pretty good prank. Especially since it involves revenge.

But my favorite prank ever is a math prank. I don’t want to ruin it by telling you anything about it, so just watch…

That’s pretty good, no? Now be honest…

April Fools Day is just around the corner. Pretty cool that this year’s date is a palindrome in the U.S. (4/1/14) and a repeating number (1.4.14) in other countries. Here are a few more pranks to get you in the spirit.

In 1975, Martin Gardner published a Mathematical Games column with “Six Sensational Discoveries that Somehow or Another have Escaped Public Attention.” Among them was the claim that the following expression yields an integer value.

e^{\pi \sqrt{163}}

Not so much a prank as an optical illusion, the following image shows two tables that appear to be drastically different in size, yet both tabletops consist of the same parallelogram (one rotated 90° from the other). Cool, huh?

Parallelogram TablesAnd finally, here’s a number trick.

  1. Start with a three-digit number abc (|ac| > 1).
  2. Reverse the digits to form the three-digit number cba.
  3. Subtract the smaller from the larger.
  4. Now reverse the digits of the result.
  5. Add the numbers from Steps 3 and 4.
  6. Cube the result.
  7. Add 3,000,000.
  8. Add 40,000.
  9. Add 900.
  10. Use the following list to convert the digits of your answer into letters.
    0 – R
    1 – S
    2 – L
    3 – N
    4 – F
    5 – T
    6 – P
    7 – I
    8 – O
    9 – A


March 28, 2014 at 7:21 am 2 comments

Martin Gardner

When I was an undergraduate at Penn State, I used to go to Pattee Library to do research or to study. Invariably, though, I’d find myself perusing the shelves corresponding to the 510’s of the Dewey Decimal system, locate a book with an intriguing title… and several hours later, I’d surface from the stacks. Nine out of 10 times, the book that would occupy my time would have been written by Martin Gardner.

It was through one of those books that I learned how to make a tetra-tetra-flexagon, and in another I read about the numerologist Dr. Irving Joshua Matrix. It was also in one of these books, Wheels, Life and Other Mathematical Amusements, that I learned my favorite problem, which became my favorite problem because it was the first true problem that I had ever solved entirely on my own. (By “true problem,” I mean that when I first looked at it, I had no idea how to proceed; it was not just an exercise, and it was going to take something beyond what I had learned in my math classes.) If you’re a math nut or a Martin Gardner fan, you’ve likely seen it before, but I offer it here for those who haven’t:

On Monday, Jonathan deposited x dollars in the bank. On Tuesday, he deposited y dollars. Each day thereafter, he deposited an amount equal to the sum of the previous two days’ deposits. On the following Thursday (that is, a week-and-a-half after his first deposit), he made a deposit of exactly $1,000. How much did he deposit each day?

(My apologies for paraphrasing. That may not be the exact wording that Gardner used, but you get the idea.)

I finished solving that problem at a very late hour. It was dark outside Pattee Library, and though I should have been tired, I was as awake and alive as I have ever been. I looked at the solution on my paper, and I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! That was fun!” And a second later, I was disheartened to realize that I was a sophomore in college, yet no one had previously shown me how much fun math could be.

That problem sparked my love affair with math, and it greatly influenced my philosophy about teaching.

Martin Gardner passed away on Sunday, May 22. My heart grew heavy when I heard the news, but my spirits were buoyed when I thought about his great life and the tremendous impact he had. It’s hard to estimate how many people he affected during his 25 years of writing the “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American or with his 70 books.

But I know he affected at least one, and deeply.

Thank you, Mr. Gardner, and may you rest in peace.

May 27, 2010 at 1:23 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.

Past Posts

August 2022

Enter your email address to subscribe to the MJ4MF blog and receive new posts via email.

Join 469 other followers

Visitor Locations

free counters