Folk speech

Math joke/riddle

My mom must find numerous ways to engage her students since most people have a fear and hatred of math. She often attempts to tells jokes that relate to something she is teaching. She learned this joke from a colleague.  “You have a kitchen and there is a pot of water on the floor. How do you boil the pot of water? Simple, you pick up the pot of water, place it on the stove, and turn the stove on. Now, how do you boil a pot of water on the counter?…… You place it on the floor and use part A.” My mom likes this joke because it resembles how one would use an existing proof in another proof. She also likes it because it has a deceptively easy answer that most people don’t think of. My mom has a degree in biochemistry and a Master’s degree in educations. She teaches math to high schoolers. She enjoys doing math puzzles and learning to code. As a result, she has collected an enormous amount of folklore. Predominantly from her students, but also from colleagues and conferences. Some of this folklore is unique to each niche while other pieces span multiple groups. This provides a unique perspective on folklore from these rather similar groups. Since my mom and I are quite similar I think the joke is funny for very similar reasons. Since I do a lot of proofs for my classes I think the answer to this joke is a “oh duh” moment. I usually have one of those when I finally figure out how to solve a problem and prove the answer. There is generally one step that makes the whole answer fit together and most of the time it is something annoyingly obvious. This joke just reminds me of those moments which are funny looking back on them, but while I was working on the problem they weren’t so funny.

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