Reading the Comics, May 9, 2020: Knowing the Angles Edition


There were a couple more comic strips in the block of time I want to write about. Only one’s got some deeper content and, I admit, I had to work to find it.

Bob Scott’s Bear With me for the 7th has Bear offering the answer from mathematics class, late.

Jerry Bittle’s Shirley and Sons Classic rerun for the 7th has Louis struggling on an arithmetic test.

Olivia Jaimes’s Nancy for the 8th has Nancy and Sluggo avoiding mathematics homework. Or, “practice”, anyway. There’s more, though; Nancy and Sluggo are doing some analysis of viewing angles. That’s actual mathematics, certainly. Computer-generated imagery depends on it, just like you’d imagine. There are even fun abstract questions that can give surprising insights into numbers. For example: imagine that space were studded, at a regular square grid spacing, with perfectly reflective marbles of uniform size. Is there, then, a line of sight between any two points outside any marbles? Even if it requires tens of millions of reflections; we’re interested in what perfect reflections would give us.

Aunt Fritzi: 'You two were supposed to be doing math practice, not playing cards.' Nancy, holding a fan of cards out and showing a geometric figure with several lines marked off: 'For your information, we were using these to measure angles.' [ Earlier ] Nancy and Sluggo look over the chart; the cards are spread out from a post-it note with a sketch of Aunt Frizi in it. It shows lines of sight. Nancy, in flashback: 'At this angle, she won't be able to see us playing cards.'
Olivia Jaimes’s Nancy for the 8th of May, 2020. When I have reason to discuss Nancy in a Reading the Comics post, I try to tag it so it’ll appear here.

Using playing cards as a makeshift protractor is a creative bit of making do with what you have. The cards spread in a fanfold easily enough and there’s marks on the cards that you can use to keep your measurements reasonably uniform. Creating ad hoc measurement tools like this isn’t mathematics per se. But making a rough tool is a first step to making a precise tool. And you can use reason to improve your estimates.

It’s not on-point, but I did want to share the most wondrous ad hoc tool I know of: You can use an analog clock hand, and the sun, as a compass. You don’t even need a real clock; you can draw the time on a sheet of paper and use that. It’s not a precise measure, of course. But if you need some help, here you go. You’ve got it.

Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein’s Daddy’s Home for the 9th has Elliot avoiding doing his mathematics homework.


And that’s got the last week covered. Some more comic strips should follow at a link here, soon. And I hope to have some other stuff to announce here, soon.

Reading the Comics, August 23, 2019: The Remainders


As teased with the Andertoons I featured Tuesday, there’s some mathematics comics slight enough I can’t write paragraphs about them. But people like seeing comics that at least say “mathematics”, so here’s your heads-up to them.

Mark Parisi’s Off The Mark for the 18th is an anthropomorphic numerals joke. The numerals in a paint-by-numbers kit are really serving the role of indices, rather than anything numerical. The instructions would be the same if, say, a letter ‘p’ or a small square represented purple.

Pab Sungenis’s New Adventures of Queen Victoria for the 19th has Her Majesty pondering the differences between shapes. It’s absurd, but, whatever keeps you up at night.

Jerry Bittle’s Shirley and Son rerun for the 20th has a kid impressed with Mom’s arithmetic skills. This is the first time Shirley and Son has gotten mention in a Reading the Comics post, which is not such a surprise to me.

Bill Rechin’s Crock rerun for the 22nd has the kid mourn having gotten arithmetic help from his father. This strip’s rerun at least once since I started doing Reading the Comics posts. It feels like it’s run more than that, but perhaps without my mentioning.

Bunny Hoest and John Reiner’s The Lockhorns for the 23rd is a spot of wordplay mentioning geometry. I was startled to see I didn’t have a tag for The Lockhorns, but it turns out this is the first time the strip’s come up since 2015, before I tagged these posts with the names of comics mentioned. There were three mentions in 2015 (including a KenKen joke and a different KenKen joke) and nothing since. I’m surprised.

Gene Mora’s Graffiti for the 23rd is also a spot of wordplay mentioning geometry. And it comes back to the joke about one shape being a kind of another that New Adventures of Queen Victoria was on about.

This wraps up last week’s comics. I plan to return Reading the Comics posts to Sunday finally, to make room Tuesdays and either Thursdays or Fridays for the Fall 2019 Mathematics A To Z. I’ve decided what A and B are going to be, but there’s still time to nominate concepts for the letters C through H. Thank you.