Posts tagged ‘pizza’

All Systems Go

I noticed the boys having an intense conversation in front of this sign at our local pizza shop:

Flippin Pizza Sign

When I asked what they were doing, they said, “We’re trying to figure out how much one slice and a beer would cost.”

As you read that, there were likely two thoughts that crossed your mind:

  • Why can’t these poor boys look at a pizza menu without perceiving it as a system of equations?
  • Why are eight-year-olds concerned with the price of beer?

The answer to both, of course, is that I’m a terrible father, and both beer and math are prominent in our daily lives.

But you have to admit that it’s pretty cool that my sons recognized, and then solved, the following system:

\begin{array}{rcl}  2p + s & = & 6.00 \\  2p + b & = & 8.00 \\  p + s & = & 3.50 \end{array}

They didn’t use substitution or elimination because they didn’t have to — and, perhaps, because they don’t know either of those methods yet. But mental math was sufficient. If two slices and a soda cost $6.00, and one slice and a soda cost $3.50, then one slice must be 6.00 – 3.50 = $2.50. Consequently, two slices cost $5.00, so a beer must be 8.00 – 5.00 = $3.00. A beer and a slice will set you back $5.50.

I remember once visiting a classroom in Somerville, MA, and the teacher was reviewing the substitution method. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but the problem she solved on the chalkboard was something like this:

Mrs. Butterworth’s math test has 10 questions and is worth 100 points. The test has some true/false questions worth 8 points each and some multiple-choice questions worth 12 points each. How many multiple-choice questions are on the test?

The teacher then used elimination to solve the resulting system:

\begin{array}{rcl}  t + m & = & 15 \\  5t + 10m & = & 100 \end{array}

The math chairperson was standing next to me as I watched. “Why is she doing that?” I asked. “You don’t need elimination. It’s clear there have to be 8 or fewer multiple-choice questions (8 × 12 = 96), so why not just guess-and-check?”

“Because on the MCAS [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System], if they tell you to use elimination but you solve the problem a different way, it’ll be marked wrong.”

So much for CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1. Although most of us would like students to “plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt,” apparently students in Massachusetts need to blindly follow algorithms and not think for themselves.

The following is my favorite system of equations problem:

I counted 34 legs after dropping some insects into my spider tank. How many spiders and how many insects?

Why is this my favorite system of equations problem? Because there is a unique solution, even though it results in just one equation with two unknowns. Traditional methods won’t work, and students have to think to solve it. Blind algorithms lead nowhere.

Other things that lead nowhere are spending your leisure hours reading a math jokes blog. But since you’re here…

Why did the student put his homework in a fish bowl?
He was trying to dissolve an equation.

An engineer thinks that his equations are an approximation to reality. A physicist thinks reality is an approximation to his equations. A mathematician doesn’t care.




April 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm 3 comments

I’m Playing Baaas-Ket-Baaall

Lego NBA Player

Lego NBA Player

I recently had a meeting at the National Basketball Association (NBA) offices in New York City. I had gotten very excited about this meeting, thinking maybe I’d bump into Lebron or Kobe or Shaq or Dr. J or Jerry West or David Stern. (It could happen, ya know. Not so long ago, I bumped into Brooke Shields while attending a meeting for MoMath. All things are possible in NYC.)

But irony of ironies… when I arrived, I met no one famous; rather, one of the NBA staffers wanted to meet me because Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is his mom’s coffee table book. She’s a retired chemical-cum-mechanical engineer, so geeky jokes are her ilk.

Three engineers are arguing about God’s profession.

The first says, “God has to be a mechanical engineer. Look at the design of the joints and muscles.”

“No, no,” said the second. “Look at the central nervous system. All that wiring? Surely, God is an electrical engineer.”

“I think you’re both wrong,” said the third. “He’s got to be a civil engineer. Who else would put a waste management facility in the middle of a recreation area?”

Now, I know that this story likely sounds like an elaborate set-up.

Yo momma is so dorky, she reads Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks.

Well, it’s not. All of this is true.

The wonderful young man who wanted to meet me was Daniel Feinberg. I asked about his mother’s favorite joke from Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks, and he told me it was this one (which is sometimes known as the Pizza Theorem):


originally from Jay Fallon at Posterous Spaces,
which sadly no longer exists

Via email, Daniel told me:

It’s funny, because she [Daniel’s mom] hadn’t taken a look at the book in some time, and when I asked her for her favorite joke, she got sucked into reading the entire thing — again.

Now that’s a nice compliment.

Daniel isn’t an engineer or even a math guy. He loves golf, though, and his favorite joke from Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is:

A pastor, a doctor, and a mathematician were stuck behind a slow foursome while playing golf. The greenskeeper noticed their frustration and explained to them, “The slow group ahead of you is a bunch of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free.”

The pastor responded, “That’s terrible! I’ll say a prayer for them.”

The doctor said, “I’ll contact my ophthalmologist friends and see if there isn’t something that can be done.”

And the mathematician asked, “Why can’t these guys play at night?”

Incidentally, Joshua Ferris included this same joke in his book To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, though the main character tells it with a priest, a minister, and a rabbi. Go figure.

I’d like to thank Daniel and his mom for their continued support. Hearing that MJ4MF made even one person smile is enough to think that it was worth writing.

Before you go, here are some basketball-related math jokes. Or maybe they’re math-related basketball jokes. Whatever. Enjoy.

What do basketball players call the last occurrence of the function that gives the greatest integer less than or equal to x?
The Final Floor.

What do athletes playing basketball and students taking a math test have in common?
They both dribble.

What’s the difference between the Knicks and a dollar bill?
You can get four quarters from a dollar bill.

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t very mathy, so here’s a mathy quote from basketball commentator and former coach Doug Collins:

Any time Detroit scores more than 100 points and holds the other team below 100 points, they almost always win.


June 4, 2015 at 7:49 am Leave a comment

Deliver Us Not Into Bad Math

What better way to celebrate National Pizza Day than sharing this sign, which hangs in our local Pizza Hut:

Pizza Hut Donation

Admittedly, I’ve never been very good with proportions, but even I know that

\frac{3}{14} \ne \frac{5}{30}.

Yet, that’s what’s implied by the statements for $3 and $5 in the sign. Further,

  • For $1, you can feed 4 children for 1 day. That’s a daily rate of 25.0¢ per child.
  • For $3, you can feed 2 children for 7 days. That’s a daily rate of 21.4¢ per child.
  • For $5, you can feed 1 child for 30 days. That’s a daily rate of 16.7¢ per child.

Will the real price per child per day please stand up?

And then I took a look at that last statement — that $10 can feed a classroom for a day — and it really blew my mind. Daily rates of 16.7 to 25.0¢ per child imply that classrooms have 40 to 60 students. I don’t know where these hungry students are, but maybe there should be a secondary campaign to reduce class size?

Though let’s be honest. What really seems to be needed here is an entirely new campaign:

Deliver Math Flyer

February 28, 2015 at 1:40 am 3 comments

Wonders of the Math World

It was Dr. Seuss who said…

Think! Think and wonder. Wonder and think.
How much water can 55 elephants drink?

These are the things about which I think and wonder.

Ever wonder why pizza is circular, delivered in a square box, and served in triangular slices? Weird.

Divorce is like algebra.
Have you ever looked at your x and wondered y?

Ever wonder why textbook authors write problems about people who buy 58 dozen eggs at the grocery store? Or why their editors don’t edit them?

July 5, 2013 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

Pizza in the Park

Nationals PizzaYesterday, the Washington Nationals — now my surrogate team, since being a Pirates fan is just too damn painful — finished the 2012 season with the National League East division title.

The day before yesterday, I was at the Nationals-Phillies game. A friend took my sons and me to the game, so in return, I offered to buy dinner at Nationals Park. When I asked his sons what we should get, they answered just as you’d expect any 5- and 9-year-olds to answer: “Pizza!”

I was happy to oblige. I assumed I was getting off cheap.

I was wrong.

At the concession stand, I gasped when I saw that pizza slices were $6 each. Admittedly, they were big slices — an 18″ pizza was divided into 6 slices — but that’s still a lot of money for 42 square inches of pizza. If you think of it as just 14 cents per square inch, it doesn’t feel quite so bad. Until you realize that you could get an entire pie outside the stadium for the cost of 2 slices inside the stadium.

Whatever. The tickets were free, so I ordered a pie. But as I did, I asked the clerk, “Why are pies $36 if slices are $6 each? Shouldn’t there be a discount for buying an entire pizza?” He shrugged his shoulders and gave me the same look I usually get from checkout people when I ask similar questions. His eyes said, “Sorry, dude, I just work here.”

The man behind the counter who was cooking the pizzas must have heard me. When my pie came out of the oven, he used his cutter to divide the pie into 8 slices instead of just 6. I guess he thought I’d feel better if the slices only cost $4.50 each. Never mind that each slice was only 3/4 the size of a regular slice.

Since I felt like I was in the middle of a bad math joke, I figured I ought to deliver the punch line.

“What’d you do that for?” I asked. “I’m not very hungry! There’s no way I’ll be able to eat 8 slices!”

The upside? The Nationals won, 4-2, and they earned the top seed in the playoffs. Go, Nats!

October 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

Mitch Hedberg’s Numerology

Comedian Mitch Hedberg died six years ago today, on March 29, 2005. He was just 37 years old.

Mitch Hedberg

He was known for one-liners, and one of my favorites involves data analysis (sort of):

I went to a pizzeria, I ordered a slice of pizza, and the [guy] gave me the smallest slice possible. If the pizza was a pie chart for what people would do if they found $1,000,000, [then he] gave me the “donate it to charity” slice. I would like to exchange this for the “keep it” slice, please!

Here’s an MJ4MF original, based on one of Hedberg’s lines:

Sometimes in the middle of the night, I’ll wake with a profound result or an elegant proof, so I keep a pen by my bed to write such things down. But sometimes, if the pen’s been moved, I might lie awake for hours trying to convince myself that my thoughts weren’t really that profound or the proof wasn’t really that elegant.

Here are a few other Hedberg lines that are slightly mathematical:

My lucky number is 4,000,000,000. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come in real handy when I’m gambling. “Come on, 4,000,000,000! Aw, f**k! Seven. Not even close. I need some more dice. Four billion divided by 6, at least.”

I angered the clerk in a clothing shop today. She asked me what size I was, and I said, “Actual.” Because I am not to scale. 

I hope the next time I move, I get a real easy phone number, something that’s real easy to remember. Something like 222‑2222. I would say, “Sweet.” People would say, “Mitch, how do I get a hold of you?” I’d say, “Just press 2 for a while. And when I answer, you’ll know you’ve pressed 2 enough.”

Rotary Phone

That last one reminds me of a classic math joke:

We’re sorry. The number you have dialed is imaginary. Please rotate your phone 90° and try again.

March 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm 1 comment

Most Underrated Math Joke Ever

I believe the following joke is the most underrated, because I was nearly booed off stage when I told it during a “Math Joke Hour” at the 2009 NCTM Annual Meeting in Washington, DC:

What’s the difference between a math PhD and a large pizza?
The pizza can feed a family of four.

But perhaps the most underappreciated is the following joke pair, which unfortunately can’t be told in many situations:

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

What kind of pencil?
A #2 pencil, of course.

Got some that you think deserve more credit but get less than either of these? I’d love to hear about them.

January 2, 2011 at 11:36 am 5 comments

Twin Pi Day

Today (June 23) around 7:41 a.m. and 8:05 a.m., respectively, my twin boys passed 3.1415926 years! My wife didn’t think it was a milestone worthy of celebration, but 154 days ago, I missed the chance to celebrate their e birthday, and I wasn’t going to let another opportunity slip away. This morning, we celebrated with circular pancakes for breakfast, and we had pizza for lunch. Which reminds me of a joke…

What is the volume of a disk with radius z and height a? pi · z · z · a

At lunch, I planned to explain pi to the boys. I wrote the letters p and i on a piece of paper and set the paper on the table, and Eli asked, “Daddy, why did you put pee on the table?” That was the end of the lesson. (It was funny to me that he’d pronounce it this way, since the i at the end of his name makes a long i sound. But then I thought of some other words he knows — such as ski, mi (Spanish for my), and his friend Ani (pronounced ahnee) from school — and realized his mistake was completely understandable.

In regards to mispronunciation, here’s a thought to ponder.

Ya ever wonder how Euler pronounced Euclid?

June 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm 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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