Posts tagged ‘puzzles’

AWOKK, Day 4: My Puzzles

It’s Day 4 of the MJ4MF A Week of KenKen series, and I’m very excited about today’s offering. But first, in case you missed the fun we’ve had previously…

The puzzles that appear at KenKen.com and within the KenKen app are automatically generated by something that those folks call the KENerator. (Clever, no?) Likewise, the puzzles that appear in the MathDoku Pro app are also generated by a computer algorithm. The benefit is that both of these sources will provide a nearly infinite supply of puzzles. The downside is that computers don’t think as well as humans, so the puzzles range from mundane to amusing, and, in the words of Thomas Snyder, are “too easy and too computer-generated.” Rarely do they fall into the category of truly interesting.

That’s why Thomas Snyder attempted to outdo The New York Times KenKen puzzle back in 2009, when he presented a new KenKen puzzle every day. His themed puzzles were meant so show “what the puzzle should be” and how to make them interesting. Of the 20+ puzzles he presented, this is my favorite, which he created for March 3 (3/3).

Thomas Snyder's 3 KenKen

You can see the large numeral “3” formed by the cage along the right edge of the puzzle. Further, every cage includes at least one digit 3 as part of the target number.

I also like his “Perfect Ten” puzzle, where every cage has 10 as the target number.

Thomas Snyder's Perfect 10 KenKen

Like Snyder, I agree that KenKen puzzles are generally more interesting — and, usually, more difficult — when they’re created by a human instead of a computer. The following are several themed puzzles that I’ve created.

This puzzle is relatively easy, but I like that it uses only 8’s and 4’s. In honor of the small town of Eighty-Four, PA — which apocryphally is said to be named after the town’s mile marker on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad — I call this the “B&O” puzzle.

KenKen 8s and 4s

You may know that 1! = 1, 2! = 2, 3! = 6, …, 6! = 720, and that these numbers are known as factorials. Consequently, I call this the “Factorial” puzzle, since the target numbers are the first six factorials.

KenKen Factorial

Of all the puzzles that I’ve created, my all-time favorite is a special 8 × 8 puzzle that I created in honor of the current year. But if you want to see it, you’ll need to check back on Sunday, September 25, for AWOKK, Day 7.

September 22, 2016 at 5:05 am Leave a comment

Humor at #NCTMNOLA

Last Wednesday evening, Steven Strogatz delivered the opening session at the 2014 NCTM Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

His talk shared a title with his bestselling book, The Joy of x. During the talk, he described five keys in bringing math to the masses, including what worked — and what didn’t — when he wrote a 15-part series for the New York Times Opinionator blog. He identified the five elements as follows:

  1. Humor
  2. Empathy
  3. Relevance
  4. A-ha!
  5. Listen to Your Wife (Husband, Partner, etc.)

I was ecstatic to see humor at the top of his list. As an example of humorous mathematics, he played the now infamous Verizon .002 phone call.

As it turns out, the week was full of humor. (Who’da thunk, at a math conference?) Bill Amend, author of the comic strip Foxtrot, delivered the closing session at the conference. Earlier the same day, yours truly gave my soon-to-be-famous Punz and Puzzles talk to a standing-room-only crowd.

Following the conference, Jennifer Silverman tweeted the following:

@jsilvermath Tweet

@jsilvermath Tweet

The joke I actually told was:

Why is 6 afraid of 7?
Because 7 8 9.

Why don’t jokes work in base 8?
Because 7 10 11.

But who cares? If her son is laughing, I’m smiling!

After my session, I was accosted by an overly gregarious gentleman who had written a collection of math jokes on a yellow sheet of paper in red ink. While a queue of people who wanted me to sign their copies of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks formed behind him, he proceeded to tell me ALL of the jokes that he had written. He shared one joke that I found funny:

Pythagorean Serum

Pythagorean serum

Though funny may not be the right word. Perhaps interesting is a better choice, because Pythagorean serum was the name we used for the concoction that was served at my book release party.

And while at the conference, I was told a joke that I think works better visually than verbally…

Absolut Value

Last but not least, I was sent the following image of Newton’s Cradle by Zachary Kanin with the suggestion that maybe I use it the next time I present:

Newtons Cradle Playground

April 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Stranger than (Science) Fiction at Balticon

I have been to many conferences and conventions. However, the one I attended today is the first that had (or needed to have) the following disclaimer on its website:

Costume weapons must be inspected and peace bonded. Taking costume weapons outside the hotel will create conflict.

The conference was Balticon 46, the annual convention of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Balticon 46

Attendees included science fiction writers, engineers, physicists, and other scientists. To my great surprise, I was envious. No, I did not have any interest in dressing like Mr. Spock, a troll, or Supergirl. But just as Susan Orlean observed true passion through the eyes of John Laroche while writing The Orchid Thief, I felt the fervor of the Balticon attendees. They are deeply passionate about science, they embrace their inner geek, and they devote themselves to learning so they can write science fiction that feels real.

In a word, it was awesome.

I found myself hoping to someday be as passionate about something — anything — as these folks.

I was invited to Balticon to give a humorous math presentation that I call Punz and Puzzles. Outside the room where I was presenting, there was a sign listing the day’s events and times. It read as follows:

0810 – Sunday Cooperative Shavuot Service
1000 – Sucking and Swallowing

1500 – Punz and Puzzles

1700 – Improved Long-Term Therapy to Prevent Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks

That sign alone made my attendance worthwhile. It would appear that the conference is attended by lascivious, orally fixated, math-loving Jews. That’s an interesting demographic.

At the end of my presentation, I asked if anyone had a math joke to share. One gentleman stood up eagerly and said, “Yes, I have some.” Uh-oh. Here’s a guy who wants to occupy the stage for a while. His first joke (below) was reasonable. His next five were not… but I’ll spare you the pain.

What is this?

Hilton + Wilding + Todd + Fisher + Burton + Warner + Fortensky

A Taylor series (specifically, the Elizabeth Taylor series; those are the last names of her husbands)

When it was all over, it occurred to me… perhaps math jokes are my passion? (Shudder.)

May 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

A Puzzle of Few Words

HangmathWinston Churchill once said, “The short words are the best, and the old words best of all.”

Today’s post contains several puzzles, the answer to each is a short word, and at least one of the answers is a very old word, indeed.

But first, a joke about words and math:

Teacher: Use the word announce in a sentence.
Student: Yes, ma’am. Announce is one-sixteenth of a pound.

The first puzzle is about the game Hangman.

In the game of Hangman, the first player thinks of a word and reveals the number of letters. The second player then guesses letters. If a guessed letter is in the word, the first player reveals the position(s) of every occurrence of that letter within the word. If the guessed letter is not in the word, then the second player receives a body part for a man who is hanging from a gallows (hence the name, Hangman). If the entire man is completed before the word is guessed, the second player has been hanged and loses.

Various versions of the game use hangmen with different numbers of body parts. The number of parts typically ranges from 7 to 13. The Hangman game at www.playhangmangames.net contains 7 body parts, and my sons play a version with 11 body parts:

Hangman - 11 Parts

Jon McLoone at the Wolfram Blog ran a simulation to determine the best words for the game of Hangman. Of course, you could just click on that link, but it might be more fun to think about the following question before you do:

What is the best word to use when playing Hangman? And does the best word change, depending on how many body parts are in the version you play?

Surprisingly, McLoone found that there is a single best Hangman word, for any game with 8 to 13 body parts. A strong hint is included at the bottom of this post.

The second puzzle is a product value puzzle, in which the product value of a word is equal to the product of the value of the letters. Specifically,

Assign each letter of the alphabet a value as follows: A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, and so on. The product value of a word is the product of its letters. For instance, the word CAT has a product value of 60 because C = 3, A = 1, T = 20, and 3 × 1 × 20 = 60.

One fun puzzle based on this set-up:

Find an “acre” word, which is a word with a product value of 43,560, the number of square feet in an acre.

The (unique) answer happens to be one of my favorite English words.

Turning this idea around, another variation is as follows:

Find a four-letter English word with the largest possible product value.

According to Scrabble Australia, there are 16,739 four-letter words. However, many of those would not be considered common — such as euoi (an impassioned cry), nabk (berries you’ve never tasted, from a plant you’ve never seen), and zizz (a short sleep). The last of these examples has an impressive product value of 263 = 17,576, but it’s not the highest. Not even close, in fact; its product value is only 7.8% of the largest product value for a four-letter word.

You can explore similar puzzles with the Product Value Calculators on the MJ4MF website.

Hints for all three puzzle appear below the following joke about words and math:

A boy was told to write an essay about his favorite subject. He wrote, “I really love math,” and turned in his essay. Returning his paper, the teacher said, “Sorry, your essay needs to be at least 100 words.” So he wrote, “I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really love math.”

Hints

The best Hangman word (according to McLoone’s analysis) has a product value of 6,760.

The defintion of the acre word is “alternating layers of silt or clay, usually of contrasting colors, that comprise an annual cycle of deposition in a body of still water.” That doesn’t help? Then just enter 43,560 into the second form on the Product Value Calculators page.

And the four-letter word with the largest possible product value? It’s an anagram of the mythological river that divides Earth and the Underworld, as well as an anagram of the 70’s rock band that sang Come Sail Away and Mr. Roboto.

August 30, 2011 at 8:20 am Leave a comment

All About Cannibals

Last weekend, I presented my Puns and Puzzles workshop at Reiter’s Books in Washington, DC. During the talk, I told the audience my favorite non-math joke, which I’ve posted on this blog before. But it’s worth repeating…

Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

While at Reiter’s, Umar Khan, the organizer of the Washington, DC, math meet-up group, offered the following modification:

Two cannibals are eating a video programmer. One says to the other, “Does this taste gamey to you?”

Inspired by Umar’s modification, I posted the joke to Facebook and asked if anyone else had a modification. To my surprise, it started a firestorm! Here are some of the best replies:

Two cannibals are eating a mathematician. One says to the other, “Does this taste odd to you?” (Beth Dare)

Two cannibals are eating Jennifer Aniston (double entendre intended): “Does this taste bitter to you?” (June Bretz Jebram)

Two cannibals are eating a deep sea fisherman. “Does this taste salty to you?” (Amy Bucci)

Two cannibals are eating a coward. One says, “Does this taste like chicken to you?” (Dave Sundin)

And my friend Ayal Cohen couldn’t resist the opportunity to make fun of me directly:

Two cannibals are eating a math joke book author. One says to the other, “Why was 10 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9!” No, wait, that’s not right. One says to the other, “Man, that was a tasteless joke.” Wait wait, hold on… the punch line is coming. Two cannibals are eating Patrick Vennebush. One says to the other, “Did you know he published a math joke book?”

“Huh?” says the other. “Who is Patrick Vennebush?”

Finally, Beth Dare offered a cannibal joke that doesn’t fit the format… but since it makes fun of several math professions, it’s worth sharing, too.

Five cannibals are hired as engineers at a defense company. The boss welcomes them, tells them they have complete access to the cafeteria, but asks them not to bother the other employees. Four weeks later, the boss congratulates them for their hard work, but he also says that the janitor is missing. “Do any of you know what happened to him?” the boss asks. None of them says anything, and the boss leaves.

When the boss is out of earshot, one of the cannibals says, “Okay, which of you idiots ate the janitor?” Meekly, one of them raises his hand. “You idiot!” shouts the first. “For a month, we’ve been eating accountants, statisticians, mathematicians, engineers, project managers and supervisors, and no one noticed! But you had to go and eat the janitor!”

September 17, 2010 at 10:32 pm 4 comments

Presentation and Booksigning: Reiter’s Bookstore (DC)

I’ll be presenting (an abridged version of) my workshop Puns and Puzzles at Reiter’s Books in Washington, DC, on Saturday, September 11.

Reiter’s Books
1900 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
2:00 pm

The presentation will combine jokes from Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks, some new jokes and even a comedy sketch, as well as some of my favorite mathematical puzzles. If you happen to find yourself in the nation’s capital with nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, please stop by to say hello. Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks will be available for sale, and after the presentation, I’ll be happy to sign a copy for you — or for the special geek in your life!

I look forward to seeing you!

August 31, 2010 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Puzzling Blondes

I pick on blondes in the joke below, mainly because my wife is blonde. But my golden rule of joke telling is to personalize the joke for your audience — so feel free to replace blondes with graduate students, liberal arts majors, math professors, or whatever other group you happen to be speaking to.

Two blondes walk into a bar and order two shots. They clink the glasses, yell, “Four weeks!” give each other a high five, and throw back the shots.

They order two more. The bartender obliges. Again, they yell, “Four weeks!” and throw back the shots.

They order another two. The bartender says he’ll be happy to pour them another round, but first he’d like to know what they’re celebrating.

“We finished a jigsaw puzzle in four weeks!” explains one of them.

The bartender is confused. “And…?” he asks.

The other exclaims, “The box says 3–6 years!”

June 7, 2010 at 12:16 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.

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