Posts tagged ‘poem’

Mo’ Math Limericks

I’ve posted limericks to this blog before. Quite a few, in fact.

Mathematical MagpieBut a friend recently sent me The Mathematical Magpie, a collection of math essays, stories and poems assembled by Clifton Fadiman and published by Simon and Schuster in 1962. Coincidentally, one section of the book is titled Comic Sections, the name of a mathematical joke book written by Des MacHale in 1993. (I contacted Professor MacHale several years ago, and he suggested that we swap books. Best. Trade. Ever.) Des MacHale is Emeritus Professor at the University of Cork, a mere 102 km from Limerick, Ireland… which brings us full circle to today’s topic.

The Mathematical Magpie contains quite a few limericks, one of which you have likely heard before:

There was a young lady named Bright,
Who traveled much faster than light.
She started one day
In the relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

Despite a variety of other claims, that limerick was written by Professor A. H. Reginald Buller, F.R.S., a biologist who received £2 when the poem was published in Punch, and he “was more excited at the check than he was later when his book on fungi was published.”

You may not, however, be familiar with Professor Buller’s follow-up limerick about Miss Bright:

To her friends said the Bright one in chatter,
“I have learned something new about matter:
As my speed was so great
Much increased was my weight,
Yet I failed to become any fatter!”

Here are a few other limericks that appear in The Mathematical Magpie:

There was an old man who said, “Do
Tell me how I’m to add two and two?
I’m not very sure
That it doesn’t make four —
But I fear that is almost too few.

The topologist’s mind came unguided
When his theories, some colleagues derided.
Out of Möbius strips
Paper dolls he now snips,
Non-Euclidean, closed, and one-sided.
Hilbert Schenck, Jr.

A mathematician named Ray
Says extraction of cubes is child’s play.
You don’t need equations
Or long calculations
Just hot water to run on the tray.
L. A. Graham

Flappity, floppity, flip!
The mouse on the Möbius strip.
The strip revolved,
The mouse dissolved
In a chronodimensional skip.
Frederick Winsor

And though it’s not a limerick, this one is just too good not to include for your enjoyment:

A diller, a dollar,
A witless trig scholar
On a ladder against a wall.
If length over height
Gives an angle too slight,
The cosecant may prove his downfall.
L. A. Graham

Finally, I leave you with a MJ4MF original:

With my head in an oven
And my feet on some ice,
I’d say that, on average,
I feel rather nice!

Got any math poems or limericks you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them!


August 4, 2017 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

Pigs in the Gutter

Finals are just around the corner, and another semester will soon be in the books. Here’s a poem to relieve the tension for all of you preparing for final exams — whether taking or administering them.

Late in the fall semester,
Dressed in suede and polyester,
I was thinking ‘bout a theorem I’d derived;
So drunk was I with mathy passion,
Into the gutter I went crashin’,
And a pig came up and lay down at my side.

Yes, I lay there on my rear end
With my stinky, pinky new friend
When a woman passing by did softly say,
“You can tell a mathy creep
By the company he’ll keep” —
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.


I don’t want to, but I gotta…

We lay side-by-side in the gutter for quite some time — swine and co-swine.

December 4, 2013 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

Humorous Math Poem Contest Winner

Winner will be announced below; but first, I’ve got to say this:

May the Fourth be with you.


Congratulations to Lucie, a student in Russ Holstein’s class. She was one of 36 entrants in the Humorous Math Poem contest, and her name was randomly selected to receive a signed copy of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. Lucie’s entry was a haiku:

Don’t be dramatic;
It is just mathematics.
Easy: 1, 2, 3.

[Editor’s Note: The middle line was changed from, “It’s just…,” to, “It is just…,” to give it the requisite seven syllables.]

Other noteworthy entries were the following:

Dear Math,
I’m sick and tired of finding your x.
Just accept the fact that she is gone…
Move on, dude!
by Susanne

Oh, these numbers make me whine!
I am really doing poor.
If I learn this, will I shine?
by Angela

Dear Aunt Sally,
Please excuse me
For not following the rules;
I don’t have the right tools.
from wawrorl

I have a really geeky clock;
It has a special chime:
At 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11 o’clock,
It shouts out, “It’s prime time!”
by Chris

And my favorite, which seems to be a commentary on standardized testing…

Today we had a test, it was mathematical.
Which is very tragical.
And wasn’t all that fantastical.
I rather it be biographical.
Does it come from the capitol?
by Marie

Thanks to the folks at Thinkfinity for promoting this contest. All of the entries can be read in the Thinkfinity Community.

May 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

2012 Math Poem Contest

April is Math Awareness Month, National Poetry Month, and National Humor Month.

I tried to run a humorous math poem contest last year, and it was a remarkable failure. There were only two entries, and one of them was submitted after the contest ended. The winning entry can be found at the link above; the other, submitted after deadline by Chris Smith, is worth sharing, too:

Some folks, they dream of wealth and fame,
Or that some girl would know their name —
Pathetic! I reserve my slumber
For imagining my favourite number.
As rapid movement stirs my eyes,
No need for me to fantasize
Of infinitely distant wishes.
Instead I feast on π — delicious!

Not very good at learning lessons, I’m trying it again. But this time, I’m letting the good folks in the Thinkfinity Community run the contest, and maybe there will be more entrants when it’s announced to their 50,000+ members. That’s where you can learn more about this year’s humorous math poem contest, and you should post your entries in this discussion forum. If you’re a math teacher, you might also want to check out the discussions in the Learning Math group.

Got math? Got rhyme? Got iambic pentameter? Then let the world share your treasure! Post your entry here.

April 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm 5 comments

A Date to Appreciate

I’ve been thinking about dates recently. No, not the really horrific evenings that women used to spend with me. I’m talking about calendar dates. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot. Like several-hours-per-night, going-to-bed-much-later-than-is-prudent a lot. More on that in a future post, though. For now, here’s an odd little poem about today’s date:

Two, four, six, eight —
A four-digit number that’s really great!
Now multiply by nine, and you’ll calculate
The value of today’s calendar date!

Big props to my friend and colleague Fred Dillon for pointing out this cool fact.

In translation: 2,468 × 9 = 22,212, which is today’s date, 2/22/12.

Rock on.

February 22, 2012 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Matters of the Cardioid

HeartIt’s Valentine’s Day. Uh-oh… you didn’t forget to get your sweetie something nice, did you? No worries. MJ4MF is here to help.

Of course, you could make a Magic Heart for your special someone. But if Arts ‘n Crafts aren’t your thing, just copy one of the following poems onto a blank card, and your sweetie will be swooning!

Roses are #FF0000,
Violets are #0000FF,
Hexadecimal is awesome,
And so are you!

Roses are #FF0000,
Leaves are #00C000,
We express colors
In powers of 16!

What’s that? You don’t speak RGB? Okay, then try this poem by Michael Stueben called Valentine:

You are the fairest of your sex,
Let me be your hero;
I love you as one over x,
as x approaches zero.

For my money, though, the best math love poem is “Square Root of Three” from Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

Maybe you’ve been together a long time, and you no longer need to woo your sweetie. In that case, just make him or her smile with this poem from John McClelland…

A lady of 80 named Gertie
Had a boyfriend of 60 named Bertie.
She told him emphatically
That viewed mathematically
By modulo 50, she’s 30.

Or perhaps you’ve just gotten out of a relationship and are currently single. Here’s a poem you can send to your ex.

Rose are red,
Violets are blue,
Our love is like a poem
That doesn’t rhyme.

Or maybe you really don’t feel like celebrating. You’ve been jilted, and you are officially anti‑Valentine’s Day. The following MJ4MF original poem might be more to your liking.

My belief in love was completely destroyed
The day you ripped out my cardioid.
Your actions and words never equated;
Your emotions, randomly generated.
Up and down again, like the curve of sine —
My screwed-up, degenerate Valentine.
So I’ll tell you abruptly, and this you can quote:
F**k this day, and kiss my asymptote!

February 14, 2012 at 2:14 am 2 comments

The Humor and Poetry of Jims Maher

Yesterday, I received an email from Jims Maher containing the following joke, which he said he thought up yesterday in a real “facepalm” moment:

There used to be seven bridges in Königsberg.
Two were lost to war. Another two were demolished in peace.
So what does that leave us with? 

A slippery slope.

Coincidentally, Jims was also the only entrant in the MJ4MF Humorous Math Poem Contest. (I will assume that everyone chose not to submit an entry because I announced the contest on April 1, so all of you thought the contest was a joke. Please allow me to harbor this delusion — it’s easier on my ego that way.) Consequently, a signed copy of MJ4MF is on its way to Jims. He said that he plans to “put it to good use as a prize in some fundraiser.” I like your style, Jims!

Because enquiring minds want to know, here is Jims’ award-winning poem…

Start at One

Numbers are counted.
One, two, three…
But some numbers are skipped,
It’s plain to see.

We never count zero
Because it’s not there.
And the imaginary numbers
Are as visible as air.

It is only the natural numbers
That we will count,
From one on up
To any amount.

However, the last number
Can never be known,
Because you can always add one,
However high that you go.

And so we keep counting,
From one, to two, to three…
With the natural numbers we keep counting,
From one to infinity.

Forgive the commentary, but I could not help thinking about mathematical definitions when reading Jims’ poem. According to Wolfram MathWorld,

The term “natural number” refers either to a member of the set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …, or to the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …. Regrettably, there seems to be no general agreement about whether to include 0 in the set of natural numbers.

Similarly, the James and James Mathematical Dictionary gives three different definitions for whole numbers: The set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, …; the set of nonnegative integers 0, 1, 2, 3, …; and the set of all positive and negative integers …, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, ….

May 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm 3 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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