Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cool Stuff People Send Me: Creative Math Solutions

The eldest child (aka Jolee) starting bring home some word problems for math that a) initially confounded me, and b) gave me horrid flashbacks to the days of yore. I was instantly reminded of Professor Ben Friedman's "Math as a Liberal Art" class my freshman year at Occidental, which helped me eliminate my mathematics requirement. The course was more difficult than it sounded, much to the chagrin of the football players who ventured into Fowler Hall, thinking they were about to encounter the "Easy A". No such luck.

Which brings me to the following examples. Rather than leave a question blank, isn't it better to make an attempt and perhaps get partial credit? Or is it better to entertain (my choice, I think)?

Do mathematicians have senses of humor? Do math professors? I'm sure.

I remember the story from high school, undoubtedly a tale of urban myth. A class arrives for a final exam to be confronted with a one-question test, and the question is "Why?"

Scores of students spend the two hours filling their test books with lengthy essays expounding on all they had learned, or what they thought the professor was looking for. The tale, as it is spun, ends with the results: only one student passed, the rest failed. The student who passed responded simply to the question. "Because," he wrote, and then turned in the test.

Unlikely, it seems, to be real. Sad, however, if it is true. Because none of the following examples from creative students were rewarded for their creativity. Even on the web, there work is presented with the mask of anonymity.

Enjoy. Click on an image to enlarge for better resolution.

I think the above was a perfect response. Below, we shift to science for a brief moment.


The answer is funny, the mental image even funnier. Here's more:


Kudos to Peter:


This one makes more sense than what the actual answer most likely would:


Next, nice try, but maybe art school would be better?

Saving the best for last:
And finally, the simplest answer is not always the most correct. If correct at all.


That whirring noise is Pythagoras spinning in his grave. x=5 cm.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Thanks for a very funny post! I can identify. In college, when I still thought I was science minded, I failed a one question chemistry quiz. The question was (and it was in all caps) "WHAT IS THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF NO GAS?"

My answer...nothing. If there is no gas, there is no weight.

I was too dim-witted to realize that the "N" was nitrogen and the "O" was oxygen...better known as nitric oxide, and an otherwise extremely simple chemistry question.

Four years later, I graduated with a degree in English Literature. Go figure.