This has not been the slowest week for mathematically-themed comic strips. The slowest would be the week nothing on topic came up. But this was close. I admit this is fine as I have things disrupting my normal schedule this week. I don’t need to write too many essays too.
On-topic enough to discuss, though, were:
Lalo Alcaraz’s La Cucaracha for the 9th features a teacher trying to get ahead of student boredom. The idea that mathematics is easier to learn if it’s about problems that seem interesting is a durable one. It agrees with my intuition. I’m less sure that just doing arithmetic while surfing is that helpful. My feeling is that a problem being interesting is separate from a problem naming an intersting thing. But making every problem uniquely interesting is probably too much to expect from a teacher. A good pop-mathematics writer can be interesting about any problem. But the pop-mathematics writer has a lot of choice about what she’ll discuss. And doesn’t need to practice examples of a problem until she can feel confident her readers have learned a skill. I don’t know that there is a good answer to this.
Also part of me feels that “eight sick waves times eight sick waves” has to be “sixty-four sick-waves-squared”. This is me worrying about the dimensional analysis of a joke. All right, but if it were “eight inches times eight inches” and you came back with “sixty-four inches” you’d agree something was off, right? But it’s easy to not notice the units. That we do, mechanically, the same thing in multiplying (oh) three times $1.20 or three times 120 miles or three boxes times 120 items per box as we do multiplying three times 120 encourages this. But if we are using numbers to measure things, and if we are doing calculations about things, then the units matter. They carry information about the kinds of things our calculations represent. It’s a bad idea to misuse or ignore those tools.
Paul Trap’s Thatababy for the 14th is roughly the anthropomorphized geometry cartoon of the week. It does name the three ways to group triangles based on how many sides have the same length. Or if you prefer, how many interior angles have the same measure. So it’s probably a good choice for your geometry tip sheet. “Scalene” as a word seems to have entered English in the 1730s. Its origin traces to Late Latin “scalenus”, from the Greek “skalenos” and meaning “uneven” or “crooked”.
“Isosceles” also goes to Late Latin and, before that, the Greek “isoskeles”, with “iso” the prefix meaning “equal” and “skeles” meaning “legs”. The curious thing to me is “Isosceles”, besides sounding more pleasant, came to English around 1550. Meanwhile, “equilateral” — a simple Late Latin for “equal sides” — appeared around 1570. I don’t know what was going on that it seemed urgent to have a word for triangles with two equal sides first, and a generation later triangles with three equal sides. And then triangles with no two equal sides went nearly two centuries without getting a custom term.
But, then, I’m aware of my bias. There might have been other words for these concepts, recognized by mathematicians of the year 1600, that haven’t come to us. Or it might be that scalene triangles were thought to be so boring there wasn’t any point giving them a special name. It would take deeper mathematics history knowledge than I have to say.
Those are all the mathematically-themed comic strips I can find something to discuss from the past week. There were some others with mentions of mathematics, though. These include:
Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein’s Daddy’s Home for the 9th, in which mathematics is the last class of the school year. Francesco Marciuliano and Jim Keefe’s Sally Forth for the 11th has a study session with “math charades” mentioned. Mark Andersons Andertoons for the 11th wants in on some of my sweet Thatababy exposition. Harley Schwadron’s 9 to 5 for the 14th is trying to become the default pie chart joke around here. It won’t beat out Randolph Itch, 2 am without a stronger punch line. And Mark Tatulli’s Heart of the City for the 15th sees Dean mention hiding sleeping in algebra class.
This closes out a week’s worth of comic strips. My next Reading the Comics post should be at this link next Sunday. And now I need to think of something to post for the Thursday and, if I can, Tuesday publication dates.
12 thoughts on “Reading the Comics, June 15, 2019: School Is Out? Edition”
Here’s a math-themed comic of mine: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1vqM1eaiJ-VFq3632QiLSOy2cZfEbjY4q
Heh! Thank you. Do you draw mathematics comics often?
I know I have a few related to math in one form or another.
Well, great. I’d be glad if you shared them, and if you felt like saying anything about how you created the strips.
Here are four Alien Resort comics you can post if you like. I write the scripts and then I send them over the internet to Alien Resort island where four extraterrestrials rehearse the scripts and assemble them into comics. I then send the comics to newspaper editors for publication. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1C1KUN_WkCSRgERjCqH8kIU1AWo40wv2C
Thank you! Kind of you to share. Have you had any luck finding editors who are interested?
We are in various newspapers. The website Alien Resort is actually a story about Alien Resort comics
Thank you! Glad for the link.
It weirdly bugs me that the scalene triangle is also a right triangle but isn’t mentioned as such.
You’re right that it is. I wonder if Trap started out thinking scalene and right were the same thing, and then found they weren’t, but didn’t think the right triangle worth redrawing. But maybe it’s just coincidence, and it isn’t meant to be a right angle.
Back in Usenet days there was the rec.arts.comics.strips in-joke about taking out the protractor, used to complain that someone was insisting on too precise a distinction than the artwork (or writing) could be expected to make clear. This came from a For Better Or For Worse sequence where Elizabeth, living somewhere up north, was at a stargazing event with her students. And the telescope was pointed too high up in the sky for whatever it was they were supposedly looking at. You can imagine the flame war that resulted. (I took the side that the important thing in the picture is that people can recognize it’s a telescope. It doesn’t matter whether it’s pointing at the right part of the sky.)
But here’s that rare case where a protractor might contribute something to the situation.