Who says there is no humor in math?By Queena N. Lee-Chua
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Reader Gino Ledesma forwarded these allegedly real-life answers to mathematics and physics examinations by students in the United States:
Question: Expand (a + b)n.
Answer: ( a + b )n = ( a + b )n = ( a + b)n
Question: The water of the earth’s oceans stores lots of heat. An engineer designed an ocean liner that would extract heat from the ocean’s waters at 10°C and reject heat to the atmosphere at 20°C. He thought he had a good idea, but his boss fired him. Explain.
Answer: He slept with his boss’ wife.
Maria Angeli Reyes of De La Salle University (DLSU) Manila forwarded a humorous answer in a biology test:
Question: How would you verify that the mutants identified by phenotype in your screen are true loss of function jaw-D mutations?
Answer: Use the radioactive ooze from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Suffer the little children
Allan Reyes of Metrobank Foundation sent the following anecdotes, proving that we should not mess around with kids.
The teacher said it was impossible for a whale to swallow a man because, even though it was a very large mammal, its throat was small. But a little girl said Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher repeated that a whale could not swallow a human.
The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.”
The teacher asked, “What if Jonah went to hell?”
The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”
The teacher was trying to persuade her class to buy a copy of the class picture. “Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you are all grown up and say, ‘There’s Jennifer, she’s a lawyer,’ or ’That’s Michael, he’s a doctor.’”
Then a small voice rang out, “And there’s the teacher, she’s dead.”
During a lesson on blood circulation, the teacher said, “Now, class, if I stood on my head, the blood would run into it, and I would turn red in the face.”
“Then why is it that while I am standing upright, the blood doesn’t run into my feet?”
A voice shouted, “Because your feet aren’t empty, unlike your head!”
The children were standing in line in the cafeteria. On a table was a pile of apples. The teacher posted this note on the apple tray: “Take only one. God is watching.”
At the other end of the table was a pile of cookies. A child had written a note, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”
Rizal and math
Aleli Domingo of the University of the Philippines Los Baños offers “proof” that Jose Rizal’s beloved mother Teodora Alonzo was a math aficionado. The national hero himself said so in the Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, and we all know that she was Rizal’s first teacher (in math and in everything else).
For Rizal, math was not an alien language. While in exile in Dapitan, he described his surroundings to his friend Ferdinand Blumentritt this way: “I have a square house, a hexagonal house and an octagonal house—all made of bamboo, wood and palm leaves. My mother, my sister Trinidad, my nephew and I live in the quadratic house. In the octagonal house live my ‘boys,’ the lads whom I teach mathematics, Spanish and English—and sometimes a patient, on whom I have just operated. The chickens are lodged in the hexagonal house.”
Rizal also read “Scientific American,” one of the foremost science periodicals up to this day. The national hero is a role model for all students and teachers, not only because of his patriotism, but also because of his interest in abstract ideas.
Multiplication by hand is a challenge for most primary school children (and many adults). But we can take a cue from the Chinese, who are known for thinking in geometric, not just algebraic, terms.
Critic Isagani Cruz, professor emeritus of DLSU, recommends the following video on Facebook, which shows in detail how lines and angles can make multiplying big numbers so much easier: www.facebook.com/video/video.php?
v=81750978802. No memorization of multiplication tables required!
Flordeliza Francisco of the Ateneo de Manila math department recommends the web site Theorem of the Day www.theoremoftheday.org, which is suitable for advanced high school, college science major and graduate students.
Some theorems should be familiar, such as the Remainder Theorem (taken in basic algebra) or De Morgan’s Theorem (encountered in lessons on sets). However, most of the theorems require some thought, such as the Bungers-Lehmer Theorem on Cyclotonic Coefficients (which I first encountered on this site, but which was nonetheless fascinating).
According to site creator Robin Whitty, “Turn the theorem over in your mind; try to follow the example, if one is given; if you are studying it online, follow the web link, which will provide a pictorial interpretation, a proof or even a clever animation.”
“Some [theorems] are harder than others,” he says, “I hope even the most difficult … offer something of wonder.”
E-mail the author at blessbook@
More from this Column:
- Do not forget the poor
- Everyone is blessed
- Exceeding expectations
- Lessons from a dog
- Funny celebrity speeches at Harvard