Reading the Comics, June 26, 2022: First Doldrums of Summer Edition


I have not kept secret that I’ve had little energy lately. I hope that’s changing but can do little more than hope. I find it strange that my lack of energy seems to be matched by Comic Strip Master Command. Last week saw pretty slim pickings for mathematically-themed comics. Here’s what seems worth the sharing from my reading.

Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate for the 22nd is a Pi Day joke, displaced to the prank day at the end of Nate’s school year. It’s also got a surprising number of people in the comments complaining that 3.1416 is only an approximation to π. It is, certainly, but so is any representation besides π or a similar mathematical expression. And introducing it with 3.1416 gives the reader the hint that this is about a mathematics expression and not an arbitrary symbol. It’s important to the joke that this be communicated clearly, and it’s hard to think of better ways to do that.

Teacher: 'What's this? One of you left a card on my desk?' He picks it up. 'Hm. All it says is 3.1416! That's pi!' A clown leaps on-panel and shoves a pie into the teacher's face: 'Did somebody say PIE?' The class breaks up in laughter. Francis leans over, 'How'd you find the clown?' Big Nate says, 'I held auditions.'
Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate for the 22nd of June, 2022. This and other essays mentioning something from Big Nate are at this link.

Dave Whamond’s Reality Check for the 24th is another in the line of “why teach algebra instead of something useful” strips. There are several responses. One is that certainly one should learn how to do a household budget; this was, at least back in the day, called home economics, and it was a pretty clear use of mathematics. Another is that a good education is about becoming literate in all the great thinking of humanity: you should come out knowing at least something coherent about mathematics and literature and exercise and biology and music and visual arts and more. Schools often fail to do all of this — how could they not? — but that’s not reason to fault them on parts of the education that they do. And anther is that algebra is about getting comfortable working with numbers before you know just what they are. That is, how to work out ways to describe a thing you want to know, and then to find what number (or range of numbers) that is. Still, these responses hardly matter. Mathematics has always lived in a twin space, of being both very practical and very abstract. People have always and will always complain that students don’t learn how to do the practical well enough. There’s not much changing that.

Teacher pointing to the quadratic formula on the whiteboard: 'Algebra!' Student: 'Why don't you teach me something more useful, that I will actually use in life? Like, oh, I don't know, how to do a household budget?' Silent panel. The teacher points to the quadratic formula again; 'Algebra!'
Dave Whamond’s Reality Check for the 24th of June, 2022. This and the many other comic strips mentioning Reality Check are available at this link.

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts Begins for the 26th sees Violet challenge Charlie Brown to say what a non-perfect circle would be. I suppose this makes the comic more suitable for a philosophy of language blog, but I don’t know any. To be a circle requires meeting a particular definition. None of the things we ever point to and call circles meets that. We don’t generally have trouble connecting our imperfect representations of circles to the “perfect” ideal, though. And Charlie Brown said something meaningful in describing his drawing as being “a perfect circle”. It’s tricky pinning down exactly what it is, though.

Charlie Brown points to a circle he's drawn on a fence: 'How's that? A *perfect* circle!' Violet looks it over: 'Uh huh ... what other kind of circles are there?' Charlie Brown is left silent by this.
Charles Schulz’s Peanuts Begins for the 26th of June, 2022. The strip originally ran the 29th of June, 1954. (The regular Peanuts feed offers comics from the late 1950s through the mid-70s. Peanuts Begins offers comics from the early 1950s.) Essays with some mention of Peanuts or the Peanuts Begins repeats are at this link.

And that is as much as last week moved me to write. This and my other Reading the Comics posts should be at this link. We’ll see whether the upcoming week picks up any.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

One thought on “Reading the Comics, June 26, 2022: First Doldrums of Summer Edition”

Please Write Something Good

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: