Reading the Comics, April 27, 2015: Anthropomorphic Mathematics Edition


They’re not running at the frantic pace of April 21st, but there’s still been a fair clip of comic strips that mention some kind of mathematical topic. I imagine Comic Strip Master Command wants to be sure to use as many of these jokes up as possible before the (United States) summer vacation sets in.

Dan Thompson’s Brevity (April 23) is a straightforward pun strip. It also shows a correct understanding of how to draw a proper Venn Diagram. And after all why shouldn’t an anthropomorphized Venn Diagram star in movies too?

John Atkinson’sWrong Hands (April 23) gets into more comfortable territory with plain old numbers being anthropomorphized. The 1 is fair to call this a problem. What kind of problem depends on whether you read the x as a multiplication sign or as a variable x. If it’s a multiplication sign then I can’t think of any true statement that can be made from that bundle of symbols. If it’s the variable x then there are surprisingly many problems which could be made, particularly if you’re willing to count something like “x = 718” as a problem. I think that it works out to 24 problems but would accept contrary views. This one ended up being the most interesting to me once I started working out how many problems you could make with just those symbols. There’s a fun question for your combinatorics exam in that.


Moose complains he can't get a break, since he was careful about his spelling and grammar but got no extra credit on his mathematics test anyway.

Henry Scarpelli and Craig Boldman’s Archie rerun the 24th of April, 2015.

Henry Scarpelli and Craig Boldman’s Archie (April 24) sees Moose complaining that his careful spelling and grammar doesn’t help his score on a mathematics test. I’m on Moose’s side. The scrawling of symbols is the most distinctive side of mathematics, but it isn’t the important side. The important side is recognizing things which are interesting, and communicating those things to other people. That is a problem of good writing. I have been sad that I couldn’t compose good short-answer and essay questions for mathematics exams I’ve given.

The requisite appearance by Mark Anderson’s Andertoons came on April 27. The student asks a fair question. Personally I’m made uneasy by the teacher having simplified “3(x + 1) – 2” down to “3x + 1” in a single step. It’s correct, yes, but I can see all sorts of mistakes made from trying to imitate that move. “3x + 3 – 2” would have made me so much more comfortable.

Anthony Blades’s Bewley (April 27) is I believe a rerun, and I think that I’ve even listed it here before. It’s a clever use of the gimmick that made Clever Hans work, at least.

Nate Frakes’s Break of Day (April 27) gives anthropomorphized numerals a pool party just in time for me to decide that’s the theme this week.

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