## Posts tagged ‘question’

### 3 Questions to Determine if You’re a Math Geek

Yesterday morning on Cooley and Kevin, a local sports radio show, the hosts and producer each posited three questions that could be used to determine if someone is a real man. (The implication being, if you can’t answer all three, then you ain’t.) I didn’t like that many of the questions focused on sports, but I’m not surprised. I was, however, surprised by some of the non-sports questions. What do you think?

Thom Loverro (guest host):

• Who wrote The Old Man and The Sea?
• What was the name of the bar owned by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca?
• Name three heavyweight boxing champions.

Kevin Sheehan (regular host):

• Who was Clark Kent’s alter ego?
• Name one of the two fighters in the “Thrilla in Manila.”
• Who won the first Super Bowl?

Greg Hough (producer):

• Name one James Bond movie and the actor who played James Bond in it.
• Who did Rocky beat to win the title?
• With what team did Brett Favre win a Super Bowl?

During the rounds of trivia, Loverro remarked, “If you can name three heavyweight champs but haven’t seen Casablanca, then you’re still in puberty.”

What three questions would you ask to determine if someone is a real woman?

One possible question might be, “Name two of the three actresses who tortured their boss in the movie Nine to Five.” Then I remembered that women don’t play the same stupid games that men do. And I realized that strolling too far down that path will lead to hate mail or a slap or both. So, let’s move on.

It also made me wonder if there are three questions you could ask to determine if someone is a real math geek. Sure, you could use the Math Purity Test, but that’s 63 questions. A 95% reduction in the number of items would be most welcome.

So, here are my three questions:

• What’s the eighth digit (after the decimal point) of π?
• What’s the punch line to, “Why do programmers confuse Halloween and Christmas?”
• Name seven mathematical puzzles that have entered popular culture.

And my honorable mention:

• What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

One of my initial questions was, “Have you ever told a math joke for your own amusement, knowing full well that your audience either wouldn’t understand it or wouldn’t find it funny?” But I tossed that one, because it’s a yes/no question that was personal, not factual. Eventually, which questions were kept and which were discarded came down to one simple rule: If nothing was lost by replacing a question with, “Are you a math dork?” then it should be rejected.

How’d I do? Opinions welcome. Submit new or revised questions for determining one’s math geekiness in the comments.

### Money-Saving Fermi Questions

I was pissed when my cousin wouldn’t give me two \$5 bills for a \$10 bill.

“Sorry, can’t,” he replied simply.

When asked why the hell not — I knew he had two \$5 bills, because he had gotten one from the gas station attendant earlier, and the waitress just brought him another — he explained that all \$5 bills are put into savings.

“When I receive a \$5 bill, I don’t spend it. It stays in my wallet till I get home, and then it goes right into the piggy bank,” he said. “Every couple months, I take those bills to the bank. It’s an easy way to build up my savings account.”

“So, what, you save like \$50 a year this way?”

“It’s a helluva lot more than you’d think,” he replied.

As stupid as this sounds, now everyone in my family is doing it. It is a low-impact way to build up your savings account. And it leads to a great Fermi question:

• If all of your \$5 bills go into savings, how much will you save in a year?

And for my sons, who don’t often pay for things with bills large enough to require \$5 in change, we have the following:

• If all of your nickels go into savings, how much will you save in a year?

Fermi questions are questions that require quantitative estimates to arrive at an answer. It often requires making assumptions, because exact data is unavailable. Here are a few others:

• What percent of people who have ever lived are currently alive?
• How many hot dogs are sold at Yankee Stadium during a baseball season?
• How long would it take a snail to travel from Miami to Los Angeles?
• What is the weight of a million dollars? (Assume 1,000,000 one-dollar bills.)

We reject more than one million pounds of coffee beans a year.

Which has to make you wonder:

• How picky are they, really?

### Questions to Which I’ll Never Answer, “No”

We finished a meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and my wife said, “I’m not going to finish my margarita. Would you like the rest?” My response was:

Now there’s a question to which I’ll never say, “No.”

That got me to thinking… there are quite a few questions to which my answer would never be, “No.” The following is a partial list:

• Do you want to tell me a math joke?
• Paper or plastic?
• Do you want to play Scrabble®?
• Will the Barbershop Harmony Society’s international convention be a harmonic function?
• Would you like to hear a really great math problem?
• Would you like to give a talk to our math club?
• Isn’t 2 to the power of infinity equal to infinity, and therefore isn’t 20 = ℵ0?
• Do good math jokes exist?
• Do you want to go see the Escher exhibit at the art museum?
• Aren’t almost all numbers very, very, very large? (See Frivolous Theorem of Arithmetic.)
• Do you want to learn a new math game?
• Is there a seed number A for which A3n will always be prime, for integer values of n?
• Is math cool?

And all this talk of yes/no questions reminded me of a joke:

Professor: Are you good at math?
Student: Well, yes and no.
Professor: What do you mean?
Student: Yes, I’m no good at math!

### Stupid Game

“Let’s play a game,” a colleague said, bounding into my office. “I ask you a question, and if you don’t know the answer, you pay me \$5. Then you ask me a question, and if I don’t know the answer, I pay you \$5.”

“Sounds like a stupid game,” I said.

“Fine,” he huffed, and stormed away.

A half-hour later he was back. “What if you pay me \$5, but I pay you \$10?” he asked.

“I got work to do. Still not interested.”

He left, but then he came back 15 minutes later. “You pay me \$5, and I pay you \$50?”

The game may be stupid, but I’m not.

“Okay, fine,” I said.

“What are the Sylow theorems?” he asked.

I’m not a fan of finite group theory, and I don’t know the answer. Nor do I care. I reached into my wallet and handed him \$5. “Okay, now my question,” I said. “What has three teeth and runs around in a circle all day?” I asked him.

He gave me a puzzled look, then left for his office. He first checked all of his reference books; nothing. He then tried every conceivable search in Google; nada. In desperation, he queried some of our colleagues; zilch. Frustrated, he returned an hour later, and stuck \$50 in my face. I took the money without looking up from my computer and said, “Now leave me alone. I have work to do.”

“I’m not leaving yet!” he insisted. “What’s the answer?”

I reached into my wallet and handed him another \$5.

Inquiring minds want to know, so here are answers to questions that you’ve surely been pondering.

Q: If one man can wash one stack of dishes in one hour, how many stacks of dishes can four men wash in four hours?
A: None. They’ll all sit down together to watch football.

Q: Why don’t members of the Ku Klux Klan study Calculus?
A: Because they don’t like to integrate.

Q: What did the circle say to the tangent line?
A: “Stop touching me!”

Q: Why did the statistician cross the interstate?
A: To analyze data on the other side of the median.

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.