Friday, December 14, 2007

Mathematical Jokes

I have written about beautiful mathematics and fun mathematics and will return to those in the future. This time I have collected humour about us mathematicians.

The problem with most jokes is that they don’t seem funny to normal people. Most of the mathematical jokes make fun of our pattern of thinking and at the same time the patterns of other scientists:

A mathematician, a physicist, and a biologist were travelling through Scotland when they saw a black sheep through the window of the train.
"Aha," says the biologist, "I see that Scottish sheep are black."
"Hmm," says the physicist, "You mean that some Scottish sheep are black."
"No," says the mathematician, "All we know is that there is at least one sheep in Scotland, and that at least one side of that one sheep is black!"

[very widely known, quote from]

I have found myself thinking like that sometimes. My reasoning is just not very widely accepted, not even among family members. The following have also some sad truth in them:

Life is complex. It has real and imaginary components.
To a mathematician, real life is a special case.

If you are thinking the same, you may test yourself:

You Might Be a Mathematician if...

You know ten ways to prove Pythagoras' Theorem.
Your telephone number is the sum of two prime numbers.

[quotes from]

At one point I had a credit card with the secret code that was a perfect square :)
I was thrilled!

The following has a note that the source is unknown. I have read equivalent jokes in Finnish and the sad thing is that this is so true; at least here:

1960's Arithmetic test:
"A logger cuts and sells a truck load of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four-fiths of that amount.
What is his profit?"

70's New Math test:
"A logger exchanges a set (L) of lumber for a set (M) of money. The cardinality of set M is 100. The set C of production costs contains 20 fewer points.
What is the cardinality of set P of profits?"

80's education reform version:
"A logger cuts and sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost is $80, and his profit is $20.
Find and circle the number 20."

90's version:
"An unenlightened logger cuts down a beautiful stand of 100 old growth trees in order to make a $20 profit.
Write an essay explaining how you feel about this as a way of making money.
Topic for discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?"

[quote from]


Black_Mamba said...

As said by Morris Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture

"The tantalizing and compelling pursuit of mathematical problems offers mental absorption, peace of mind amid endless challenges, repose in activity, battle without conflict, "refuge from the goading urgency of contingent happenings," and the sort of beauty changeless mountains present to sense tried by the present-day kaleidoscope of events."

Couldn't have been more categorical. Or mathematically precise lol.......

Mathematics truly is the universal language :)

Leena Helttula said...

Thanks for the quote Ivy!
It's right to the point :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I fully agree that mathematics is truly a universal language. And it is a language that tells many stories. It is at times serious, it can tell jokes, and it can also be mysterious too. How naughty it is!

Meghna said...

Hi Leena,
Those were really hilarious! I had never thought that mathematics would be something to be joked about.

JesieBlogJourney said...

I like those jokes and how the same question was set to be easier and easier decade after decade.

I remembered a friend was preparing for a test where there was a section of Pythagoras' Theorem which she had no clue. When she approached me, I drew and explained to her. I created new questions and played games after games on different ways to prove. It was pretty exciting for both of us.

I agree that math is a universal language just the opposite of literature. There can be different methods of solving a problem but we get the same answer. I remembered asking my literature professor, "So what is the conclusion of the poem, or story....?" And this is what he answered, "There is no exact answer like math or accounting. It is up to your own imagination!"

Oh yes, your Sudoku is missing one last column on my screen. I'm not sure how it looks on yours.