# Mathematicians Make Pasta and Eat Corn

a weekly roundup of cartoons, links, and easy mathematical pasta recipes

The noodly mathematics of gerrymandering remains a hot topic in the news. I recommend the More Perfect episode, as well as Patrick Honner’s explanation for Quanta Magazine. (Speaking of which, Quanta is like the Beatles of popular math writing. The quantity of quality stuff is unfathomable.)

Quick summary: The aim of gerrymandering is to redraw legislative districts so that your party wins more seats. This is best accomplished by winning each seat with a tiny majority, so you don’t “waste” any votes. What does it mean to “waste” a vote? Well, any vote in a district you lose is wasted, ’cause you didn’t win. And any vote above the winning threshold (50%) is wasted, ’cause you didn’t need it. (This means that, by definition, half of all votes in any district are wasted.)

The efficiency gap is pretty simple: it’s the difference between the two parties’ wasted votes (expressed as a percentage of all votes).

I’ve always got way too many tabs open. Quick screen grab:

Thus, I’m just now getting around to reading math writer Evelyn Lamb’s interview with the AMS, and therefore just learning about the podcast My Favorite Theorem.

The podcast is what it says on the tin: Mathematicians recounting their favorite theorems. I just downloaded all five episodes. Eager to start listening.

Here’s a bizarre one: apparently how you eat corn is super predictive of what kind of math you like, analysis or algebra.

I bristle a little at the writer’s descriptions of the fields, but the correlation is kind of uncanny. My wife (an analyst) and my dad (who prefers algebra) both fit the pattern. I’ve always felt pretty agnostic between the two (if you’re batting .000 from both sides of the plate, you might as well call yourself a switch hitter!) but the corn test pegs me as an algebraist. Who am I to disagree?

My niece (age 2) sometimes asks me to draw “happy triangles” for her. Then, as soon as I finish, she scribbles them out. I’m sure it’s a metaphor for something.

## 12 thoughts on “Mathematicians Make Pasta and Eat Corn”

1. Q says:

“Thus, I’m just now getting around to reading math writer Evelyn Lamb’s interview with the AMS, and therefore just learning about the podcast My Favorite Theorem.
The podcast is what it says on the tin: Mathematicians recounting their favorite theorems. I just downloaded all five episodes. Eager to start listening.”

Counting error! They start at episode 0 and go up through episode 5. (Is it a Computer Science podcast then?) So there are 6 episodes total. 😀

1. Such a good point!

To me, this is the hardest operation in all of mathematics. Like, if you’re in town from the 18th to the 20th, how long are you in town?

Not two days! Three! No wonder people resent math.

1. Hmm. True if you are there the entirety of the 18th, 19th and 20th. Not if you arrive at noon on the 18th and leave at noon on the 20th…

2. That last one is worth twice the price of admission.

I’m starting to feel the need for a Math With Bad Drawings t-shirt. Any chance of it?

1. I’m honored you would consider wearing a bad drawing on your own clothing! October has swallowed me whole but I plan to look into it in November. I’d love to make it happen.

3. Thanks for the mention! I hope you enjoy the podcast. 🙂 I also have a bad case of too many tabs, so I’m just catching up on your blog and just read your Hellman post. Great story, well illustrated.

1. Thanks! I’m definitely enjoying the podcast. The pairings are a great idea.

4. Doug M says:

I am an analyst and have the corn cob to prove it

1. I find that such a strange and admirable way to eat corn! I guess I’m less of an analyst than I thought.

5. You think that’s too many tabs? Well so do I, but you should see the browsers of some of my co-workers. They have so many tabs open that a maximized window still only shows icons on the tabs. There’s not even room for the close-tab ‘×’.

6. Hi Ben,

We need an artist to illustrate and promote our idea, which is…

A child shows the traditional work on the board for

23
-7
___
16

… by crossing out the 2, replacing it with a 1, and also crossing out the 3, and replacing it with a 13. (Actually, most are taught to “add a little 1” in front of the 3.)

The child exclaims, “I borrowed a ten!”

The (wise) teacher responds, “Really? In that case, may I borrow your chocolate?”

Point being – the word “borrow” – which is typically used in the US, is not so typical in other cultures which avoid whatever is their equivalent of “borrow.” The process, rather, is an “exchange” or “ungrouping.”

In the past, whenever I heard a student (a future elementary teacher) use the word “borrow,” I would ask if I could borrow their car.

Just now, I heard a colleague ask another if she could borrow some chocolate.

And that’s how we end the life of the misnomer “borrowing.”

Sincerely,
Matt

Matt Wyneken, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, University of Michigan-Flint
President, Michigan Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators

UM-Flint program faculty member for:
Master’s in Mathematics Education for Elementary and Early Childhood Educators
Master’s in Secondary Education with Certification
Elementary Education

1. It’s a cute idea. I’ll see what I can come up with!