Tag Archives: math

Math Joke


AL – So there’s a far-off place that consisted of a perfectly triangular lake surrounded by land, with three kingdoms, one on each side of the lake. The first kingdom is rich and powerful, filled with wealthy, prosperous people. The second kingdom is more humble, but has its fair share of wealth and power too. The third kingdom is struggling and poor, and barely has an army.
The kingdoms eventually go to war over control of the lake, as it’s a valuable resource to have. The first kingdom sends 100 of their finest knights, clad in their best armor, and each with their own personal squire. The second kingdom sends 50 of their knights, with fine leather armor and a few dozen squires of their own. The third kingdom sends their one and only knights, an elderly warrior who has long since passed his primes, with his own personal squire.
The knight before the big battle, the knights in the first kingdom drink and make merry, partying into the late hours of the night. The knights in the second kingdom aren’t as well off, but have their own supply of grog and also drink late into the night.
In the third camp, the faithful squire gets a rope and slings it over the branch of a tall tree, making a noose, and hangs a pot from it. He fills the pot with stew and has a humble dinner with the old knight.
The next morning, the knights in the first two kingdoms are hung over and unable to fight, while the knight in the third kingdom is old and weary, unable to get up. In place of the knights, the squires from all three kingdoms go and fight. The battle lasts ling into the night, but by the time the dust settled, only one squire was left standing—the squire from the third kingdom.
And it just goes to show you that the squire of the high pot and noose is equal to the sum of the squires of the other two sides.


I like to collect jokes, specifically puns, on various topics so that no matter what situation I am currently in, I can say, “Oh, I know a joke about that!” I have found that most people have a love/hate relationship with puns; they tend to love telling them and hate hearing them. I mostly tell puns to family and friends, and their anger and frustration fuels me. Though my friends groan and sigh every time they hear a pun, they will still send me any good ones that they find. I also find puns on various social media platforms, in books, and on the occasional popsicle stick. Any time that I find or am sent a pun that I like, I write it in a book that I keep specifically for this purpose. My very favorite kinds of puns are the ones that are long and drawn out, ones that are a paragraph, maybe two, and you get to the end and the last line is a clever pun that uses many elements of the story that came before it. My second favorite kinds of puns are the short rude/dirty ones, because in addition to the reaction you get for any other pun, you also get the shock reaction from the vulgarity. I save the more risqué puns for close friends, as I don’t want to offend the delicate sensibilities of people that I don’t know very well.


This pun begins as a lengthy narrative that misleads the listener from thinking about puns. The punchline is succinct. And it is not necessarily comprehensible to everyone. Specifically, the listener must have a basic understanding about geometry. What initially sounds like an attractive David-and-Goliath story is actually… a math joke. The punchline, “the squire of the high pot and noose is equal to the sum of the squires of the other two sides,” can be misheard (with the right mindset and maths knowledge) as “the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.” Not only is the listener tricked into listening into a pun (as the informant mentioned, most people hate hearing them), but they are also tricked into having to think about math, which, depending on the audience’s preference for school subjects, is insult to injury.

Order of Operations Mnemonic Device

PEMDAS- Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally
The informant was introduced to this mnemonic device in late elementary school and middle school as a method to learn the order of operation: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. When solving a mathematical equation, the order that one performs the operations is important to reach the final answer. The students were taught “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally”; however, the informant and many other students in the class would change to simply say “Pemdas”, a made-up word, but one they could still remember. The phrase was less appealing to the informant and their peers as it was long and required them to break down the phrase into the first letters of each word to get the actual desired content.
My Thoughts
The students were taught the phrase “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” by their teachers, but instead made their own mnemonic device to better match their preferences. The shorter device may point to a desire for efficiency in those who use it as they prefer a more straight-forward learning method than one that might be seen as ‘creative’.

Engineer’s Rounding Joke

“pi=10, it also equals 3 and e=3 so pi=e!”
When talking about safety factors, the informant, an engineering student, shared the joke. Because engineers are always concerned about the safety of the users of their products (because getting sued is no fun) and like to account for the things more difficult to account for, one way to introduce a safety factor is to make pi equal to 10 in all calculations. This massive rounding then prompted the follow up of simply rounding e (~2.718) and pi (~3.14) could simply be rounded to 3 for simpler calculations and that error would be accounted for with the safety factor.
My Thoughts
This joke has some practicality to it by reminding engineers to have large safety factors to ensure the safety of their designs, it is also a joke on the rather flippant view of numbers that engineers have as it doesn’t always need to be precise but simply overkill enough for the application. I also relate this to the idea that engineers are lazy and so create processes and machines to ensure they can be lazy at the desired times. Multiplying or dividing by 10 is about as lazy as it gets in math.

The Mathematician, The Physicist and the Engineer

The Mathematician, The Physicist and the Engineer

Informant: I’m a math-econ major so I was always highly interested in math, science, and engineering. I heard this from one of my math professors in high school. Weirdly it was one of my math professors or my religion teacher. So basically you have a mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer. And so they are all in separate classrooms and a fire breaks out in their rubbish pails simultaneously. Uh . . . I can’t remember which one was which, but the physicist calculates the exact amount required to put out the fire and then put outs the fire with very little mess. The engineer just dumps water on it to put out the fire and makes a huge mess. The mathematician on the other hand starts writing on the board, fills up one board, goes on to the next, fills up that one, goes on to the next, fills up that one, puts down his chalk and says, “it can be done, it can be put out”. And that’s basically the joke; it plays off of stereotypes of physicists, engineers, and mathematicians

Interviewer: How old were you approximately when you first heard it?

Informant: I was in high school so I was around 16-17 in Washington D.C

Interviewer: Do you tell it to other people?

Informant: Not really anymore, because I don’t remember it properly. I found it hilarious when I first heard it because I found it so true.

Interviewer’s notes:

This joke is a type of Blason Populaire. The humor of the joke plays off of the stereotypes of physicists as precise, engineers as messy, and mathematicians as over -thinkers. It is interesting to note that the informant is in the same field of study of the subjects of the joke which is indicative of why the informant is compelled to proliferate the joke. For the informant, the humor is enhanced by her ability to relate.

Student inadvertently solves never-before-solved math problems

My informant told me about a story she heard about a student waking up late and rushing to their final, then frantically trying to finish the three equations on the board. The first two weren’t so bad, but the third was difficult. He finally finished and turned it into the professor only to find out later the third was actually not part of the test. Instead, it was a problem that had as of yet been unsolved. He had figured it out, though. My informant likes it because she thinks it would be cool to accidentally become famous like that and because it relates to one of her favorite movies, Good Will Hunting, since the main character in it easily solves equations no else could.

I like how the story reflects how we believe what we hear; when we are told something is impossible, it will seem much harder in our mind. But when we think something is supposed to be solvable, it may be easier to figure out, even if it’s never been done before. Limitations we place on ourselves are often illusory.

I looked into the story and found that it is actually based in truth. In 1939, George Dantzig arrived late to his graduate statistics class and saw two problems on the board, not knowing they were examples of problems that had never been solved. He thought they were a homework assignment and was able to solve them. He found out the reality six weeks later when his teacher let him know and helped him publish a paper about one of the problems.

Annotation: Cottle, Richard, Ellis Johnson, and Roger Wets. “George B. Dantzig.” Notices of the AMS 54.3 (2007). Web. April 23 2012.