Posts tagged ‘think’

Car Talk Puzzlers

Tom Magliozzi

Tom Magliozzi

I make a point of not having heroes, but there are people I greatly admire. Tom Magliozzi, the co-host of Car Talk who passed away yesterday, was one of those people.

Not only was Tom able to make other people laugh, he was always laughing himself. He and his brother Ray hosted Car Talk from 1977-2012, making folks laugh — and think — for 35 years.

In case you haven’t noticed, laughing and thinking are two of my favorite activities.

Every week, Tom and Ray would try “frantically to come up with a mediocre new puzzler,” a logical or mathematical problem that wouldn’t have an immediately obvious solution. Sometimes I’d be able to solve them, sometimes I wouldn’t, but I’d always enjoy them… and I’d laugh out loud while Ray read the puzzler and Tom offered commentary.

Below are two of my favorites, but you can find the full list of puzzlers at the Car Talk web site.

This first one sounds so simplistic, but most folks get tangled up in the details. Share it at your next department meeting, and see how many colleagues can solve it. You’ll be disappointingly surprised!

A store paid $6.75 for a shirt, and they then sell the shirt for $12. A man visits the store, buys the shirt, and pays with a $20 bill. The clerk gives the customer $8 in change, as expected. But unbeknownst to the clerk, the bill was counterfeit — instead of Andrew Jackson’s picture on the bill, it’s got Michael Jackson’s! In total, how much did the store lose on the entire transaction?

That one reminds me of the Marilyn Burns horse problem: You buy a horse for $50, sell it for $60, buy it back for $70, then sell it again for $80. Did you make money, lose money, or break even?

This next one is a classic that’s taken many forms. Finding a solution isn’t too hard… finding the simplest solution may take a little effort, though.

You have a four-ounce glass and a nine-ounce glass. You have an endless supply of water. You can fill or dump either glass. You can measure six ounces of water using these two glasses. What’s the fewest number of steps in which you can measure six ounces?

RIP, Click. I’m sure you’re already making people laugh and think upstairs.

November 4, 2014 at 10:36 am Leave a comment

Book Review: 365 Things To Make You Go Hmmm…

365 ThingsBefore reading 365 Things That Make You Go Hmmm…, I hadn’t realized that I’d been on Earth for 1.3 billion seconds, and I never thought about what someone would feel like after spending a day in my mind. That’s the beauty of this incredible book — it asks you to think about things that you’ve probably never thought about before. The questions are great for starting classroom discussions, but they also work well for sparking a conversation between a parent and child, or as an icebreaker at your next social event.

The book contains introspective questions (“What makes you irreplaceable?”), but it also contains math and logic puzzles like the following:

Before this piece of paper was folded over once, it was a capital letter. It wasn’t the letter L — that would be too easy. Which letter was it?

Folded Letter

I’m also a big fan of puzzle #110, which starts:

An antigram is word [or phrase] that when you rearrange the letters you can make a new word or phrase that means something very different — in fact, almost the opposite! For example: earliestrise late.

It then provides a list of antigrams and asks for the opposite word or phrase. One of the antigrams is:

within earshot

Flummoxed, I looked at the answer in the back of the book, which read:

I won’t hear

I realized immediately that something was wrong. The given answer did not contain enough letters. And then I gasped, because I realized which letters had been omitted:

Within Earshot

Wow! I emailed Paul Wrangles (the author) immediately and asked if the answer was given as “I won’t hear” so as to avoid writing “I won’t hear shit,” or if this was simply a typo. He assured me that it was only a typo, and the correct answer is supposed to be:

I won’t hear THIS

Whew!

With that mystery solved, I viewed the other 360 things and thoroughly enjoyed them. My sons and I have been working our way through them, though they’re so addictive, we rarely stop at answering just one a day. We’re hoping for a second volume — we need more questions to last an entire year!

365 Things That Make You Go Hmmm… is an amazing resource. Chock full of questions from ordinary to extraordinary, it made my head hurt — but in a good way!

I highly recommend this book for any teacher, parent, or curious individual.

September 15, 2014 at 6:54 am Leave a comment

Don’t Upset Descartes

This is René Descartes’ most famous quotation:

Cogito ergo sum. (I think; therefore, I am.)

The following moldy oldie, known by almost everyone, is based on that quote:

René Descartes was sitting in a bar. When asked if he wanted another, he said, “I think not.” And he promptly disappeared.

Slightly less well known is the following quote by Saul Steinberg:

“I think, therefore Descartes is.”

I rather like the following limerick based on Descartes’ famous quote:

There was a young student named Fred;
When asked about Descartes, he said:
“It’s perfectly clear
That I’m not really here,
For I haven’t a thought in my head.”

Tee-hee.

For my money, though, the best René Descartes quote is the following:

Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.

That reminds me of another moldy oldie, which comes in many different varieties…

A mathematician had tired of academia, so he decided to join the fire department. During his training, the chief asked him, “If you were walking down an alley and came across a dumpster that was on fire, what would you do?”

“Why, I’d get a hose and douse it, of course!”

“Correct,” said the chief. “And what would you do if you were walking down an alley and came across a dumpster that was not on fire?”

“I suppose I’d light the dumpster on fire.”

“You’d do what?” screams the chief.

“I’d light it on fire,” says the mathematician, “thereby reducing it to a previously solved problem.”

May 31, 2012 at 3:21 am 3 comments


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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