Bonus Question Humor

We all need a little bit of math humor in our life. In the teacher edition of the geometry textbook that our school uses, there are math jokes every ten pages or so (which is hilarious, because the textbook publisher thought that corny jokes would be of great use to classroom teachers). My favorite joke from that book: Why was the math book so sad? Wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it… Because it had so many problems. Feel free to use that one all you want.

One of my favorite places for humor is tests. Last year, I had a question involving the movie ticket revenue of Avatar and slipped this in as part e:

e. Avatar was a [ great movie | good movie | ok movie | bad movie | didn’t see it ]. (Circle one)

When I corrected the tests, I corrected their answers as right or wrong (the correct answer was “good movie” not great movie – I didn’t even accept didn’t see it). Obviously this did not count in their point totals, but one student submitted this in a feedback form “Please make it more obvious what the answers should be to personal preference question e.g. is Avatar a good movie?” I almost died laughing when I got that one.

On the first test we had for Calculus this year, here was the Bonus question:

BONUS: Draw a piecewise-defined function below that makes the most beautiful picture I have ever seen. The only rules are that it must be piecewise-defined and it must be a function and it must be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen (or else I will rip up your test and not grade any of it).

Needless to say, I got lots of great submissions for this, with the only negative being that a few students spent like 10 minutes drawing instead of checking their test. Building up to the good ones, first here were some that were unsuccessful. I should have gone through with my threat of ripping up their test, but I guess I was in a good mood when I was grading (what?). About half of the submissions were similar to this one – just a random assortment of lines thrown across the page:

I mean, a piecewise function, sure, but beautiful? Why? Is it abstract expressionism or something? I guess I should be happy that it was at least a mathematically sound submission, unlike this one:

I mean, really? There were like two rules and you messed up one of them. Regardless of how wrong something can be, I always give mad props if a student can at least make me laugh:

Is this what you are feeling after the test? Was that little explanation picture in the top right corner necessary? This one also made me laugh:

I didn’t notice it the first time around but caught it when I was just briefly going over the tests for a second time… If you didn’t notice either, because it seems like the page is blank, very small in the bottom right-hand corner she wrote “(hint: it’s abstract)” which actually made me laugh out loud. BUT, some of the submissions were mathematically functions, and undeniably beautiful:

This is from THE student artist at the school. She really is quite talented. On the left is a fisherman who is casting out for a fish on the right. She cleverly used the x-axis as the sea level. Love it. Unfortunately though, that was still not the winner. (Trumpets sounding) And the winner was…

This student drew a picture of a bow and arrow. She did this for me because I am Bowman, man of the Bow, the archer, Rami in Arabic (that’s what’s written towards the top). I don’t know how she figured out so quickly that the way to win questions like this is to reference me, but kudos for her for getting this so quickly. Far better than the sideways B that won last year.

Side note: Don’t know how comfortable I am with the fact that she wrote “cute asymptote” on it. I just sincerely hope that it was just an opportunity for a wonderful math pun, and not a reference to me.

Posted on October 21, 2011, in Calculus, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. What if the fisherman had been fishing with a bow?! Then he could could be a bowman too!

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