Posts tagged ‘mathematician’

A Busy Week — Fun at NCTM and USASEF

The 2012 Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is happening next week, April 25‑28, in Philadelphia, PA. As it winds down, the USA Science and Engineering Festival starts in Washington, DC, and will occur April 28‑29. It will be a busy week for me — I am performing twice at each event! If you happen to be attending either event, please stop by and say hello.

At the NCTM Annual Meeting…

  • To 10 and Beyond Using Free Illuminations Resources
    Friday, April 27, 8:30-10:00 a.m.
    Salon A/B (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
  • Using Free NCTM Resources to Promote an Understanding of Proportion
    Friday, April 27, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
    Salon A/B (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)

At the USA Science and Engineering Festival, Washington, DC…

  • Puns and Puzzles
    Saturday, April 28, 2:00-2:30 p.m.
    Franklin Stage (Washington Convention Center)
  • Puns and Puzzles
    Sunday, April 29, 3:00-3:30 p.m.
    Franklin Stage (Washington Convention Center)

I am expecting an engaged crowd at each event, and I am hopeful that my presentations are received better than this…

A mathematician and an engineer attend a physics lecture. The topic is Kulza-Klein theories involving physical processes that occur in 9-dimensional space. The mathematician is enjoying the lecture, but the engineer is confused and frustrated. At the end, the mathematician comments about how wonderful he thought the lecture was. The engineer asks, “How do you understand this stuff?”

The mathematician replies, “I just visualize the process.”

“But how can you possibly visualize something that occurs in 9-dimensional space?”

“Easy,” says the mathematician. “First, I visualize it in n-dimensional space, and then I let n = 9.”


April 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm Leave a comment

Math Joke in Popular Press

Gene Weingarten, a columnist for the Washington Post, used a math joke in his column this week.

Refuting disgustologists’ contentions that “much of human behavior can be explained by our instinctive desire to avoid things that disgust us,” he offered the following joke as proof:

Did you hear about the constipated mathematician?
He worked it out with a pencil!

I was ecstatic that a math joke got some love; though I was a little bummed that he didn’t include the follow-up joke:

What kind of pencil did he use?
A No. 2 pencil!

I sent a note to Mr. Weingarten to let him know about this sin of omission. But that wasn’t until I stopped laughing after reading the non-math joke that he included in the column:

Woman walks into a bar, says: “I’ll have an entendre. Make it a double.” So the bartender gives it to her.

I do not expect to get a response to my message. But if I do, you’ll be the first to know!

February 19, 2012 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

Deep Math Thoughts

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately…

Instead of having “answers” on a math test, they should just call them “impressions,” and if you get a different impression, so what? Can’t we all just get along?

If you think that dogs can’t count — let him watch you put two biscuits in your pocket, and then only give him one.

If we stop teaching students about numbers less than zero, do you think there would be a positive impact on education?

A prime rib cannot be cut with a steak knife, because it is only divisible by itself and one.

A math professor is someone who talks in other people’s sleep.

A mathematician is someone who will begin a sentence with, “As everyone knows,” and then finish it with something he just learned.

And a famous quotation…

Never trust any quote you find on the Internet.
– Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address


November 30, 2011 at 11:33 am 2 comments

Food for Thought and Laughs

I was presented with an interesting Fermi question today:

How many pounds of food will you eat in your lifetime?

My first estimate: About 20 tons — approximately 1.5 pounds per day (roughly 500 pounds a year) for 80 years.

My second estimate: Unless by pounds you mean British currency, and by food you mean caviar, in which case my estimate would be closer to 21 million.

This made me think of several math and food jokes.

At a restaurant…

“What can I get for you?” asked the waiter.

The mathematician replied, “I’ll have the seven‑layer dip as an appetizer. For my entree, prime rib, dim sum, and the three‑bean salad. To drink, a root beer, and pi for dessert.”

Meanwhile at the cannibals’ house…

The cannibal family was eating dinner. One son says, “I really hate my math teacher.” The other son says, “I know. He’s so tough!” The mother tells them, “Quit complaining. If you don’t like the meat, just eat the noodles.”

And at the university…

What do you call a smiling, sober, courteous person at a math department social event?
The caterer.

One of my favorite pieces about math and food comes from Dave Barry:

Algebra is a vital tool for our young people to learn. The traditional method for teaching it, of course, is to require students to solve problems developed in 1928 by the American Association of Mathematics Teachers Obsessed With Fruit. For example: “If Billy has twice as many apples as Bobby, and Sally has seven more apples than Chester, who has one apple in each hand plus one concealed in his knickers, then how many apples does Ned have, assuming that his train leaves Chicago at noon?”


November 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

4 Jokes, Just For Fun

A random compilation of four unrelated jokes, just for fun…

Happy Face

Two math professors are exiting the subway when a panhandler asks them for some change. The first prof refuses in disgust. The second prof, however, opens his wallet and gives him a $5 bill. “What’d you do that for?” asks the first. “You know he’s just going to use it for booze.”

“And we weren’t?” says the second.

What do statisticians use for birth control?
Their personalities.

Three engineers on a desert island find a magic lamp. They rub it, and a genie pops out. “I’ll grant you each a wish,” says the genie.

The first engineer says, “I wish I had 25% more intelligence. Then I’d be smart enough to get off of this island.” The genie turns her into an accountant, and she swims off the island.

The second engineer watches this and says, “I wish I had 50% more intellignce. Then I’d be smart enough to get off this island.” The genie turns her into a statistician, and she makes a raft from trees and sails off.

Finally, the third engineer says, “I wish I had 100% more intelligence. Then I’d be smart enough to get off this island.” The genie turns her into a mathematician, and she walks across the bridge.

What’s the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a dead economist in the road?
There are skid marks before the skunk.


September 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm 1 comment

Avoid, On the Whole, Mathematicians

I was recently shown a chapter from Graham Masterson’s book How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed. The chapter gives suggestions on how to choose a mate, and it includes a list of professions to avoid. At the top of the list, Masterson writes:

Avoid, on the whole, mathematicians…

Of course, I think this advice should be ignored. My reaction, of course, is  an ego defense, since I’m a mathy folk. But it also seems to me that a heterosexual male horror writer should not be trusted when dispensing advice about pleasing men in bed.

As it turns out, math and sex have a lot in common…

  • Explicit discussions of either topic are generally not received well at social events.
  • Historically, men have had control, but recent efforts have tried to get women more involved.
  • People engage prominently in both activities on college campuses.
  • Most people wish they knew more about both subjects.
  • Both activities are typically practiced indoors.
  • Both involve long and hard problems and can produce interesting topology and geometry.
  • Both merit undivided attention, but mathematicians are prone to thinking about one while doing the other.
  • Saint Augustine was hostile to both.
  • Alan Turing took an unusual approach to both.
  • Both typically begin with a lot of hard work and end with a great but brief reward.
  • Professionals are viewed with suspicion, and most of them are underpaid.

May 12, 2011 at 4:31 am 6 comments

Working at NCTM

I am the Online Projects Manager at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. I love my job — I’ve been here for 6 years, and I’ll stay here another 60, if they’ll let me; I love my organization — I’m not yet 40 years old, but I’ve been a member almost half my life; and I love my colleagues. But working at NCTM has its share of, um, challenges.

Take the equipment we have in the building, for instance. Today, I selected “single‑sided” on the photocopier, and all of my copies were printed on Möbius strips.

Of course, my mathy colleagues cause problems, too. There are three types of people who work at NCTM: those who can count, and those who can’t.

About a year ago, a small fire started in one of the hallways. An engineer, a scientist, and a statistician — who were at NCTM headquarters attending a summit about the merits of always including three related professions in the set-up of a joke — began debating the best way to extinguish the blaze.

“Dump some water on it!” the engineer suggested.

“No! Remove the oxygen!” said the scientist.

The statistician, however, started running around the building, starting fires in other locations. “What the heck are you doing?” the other two asked.

“Trying to create a decent sample size,” he said.

To put out the fires, a mathematician on staff brought them several buckets of water. The fires were extinguished one by one, but when they finished, there was an unused bucket of water. The statistician said to the mathematician, “Can you please get rid of that water?”

The mathematician proceeded to start another fire, and then he dumped the bucket of water on it.

“What’d you do that for?” the statistician asked.

“I reduced it to a previously solved problem,” said the mathematician.

More seriously, the following is a true story about NCTM.

The James D. Gates Building in Reston, VA, serves as the national headquarters for NCTM. In 1993, an addition to the building nearly doubled its size. In the area between the original structure and the addition, a courtyard was created, and a geometric design of circles and triangles was constructed on the floor of the courtyard with bricks and drainage pipes:

Long‑time members of NCTM might recognize the old NCTM logo:

Shortly after the building was expanded, however, it was learned that a number of publishing companies, eager to align themselves with NCTM after the release of Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, began placing the NCTM logo directly on their products. Cease‑and‑desist letters were sent to the publishers asking them to kindly remove the logo from their materials — and NCTM was shocked when they said, “No!” As it turns out, the publishers’ lawyers had done their homework, and they learned that the NCTM logo had never been trademarked. As a result, there was nothing that NCTM could do to prevent them from using it. 

Consequently, the NCTM logo was revised to the version we have today:


In the courtyard, we have a constant reminder of a bureaucratic blunder. As you’ll notice, the current logo has the ® symbol — and no one’s taken this one away from us, baby! Personally, I think the new one is better, anyway, with allusions to the infinity symbol; the letter x, as an algebraic variable; and a small child, which is a constant reminder that our profession is not just about numbers and shapes but about the lives we touch.


November 17, 2010 at 8:53 am Leave a comment

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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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