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Dear Mitch,

Would you post another math joke?

(I liked the one you did the other day about the frog!)


P.J. H.

University of Mass


Dear P.J.H.,


Once upon a time there was a boy named Joshua Isenfeld. He was a bright boy and did well in almost every subject. However, for some reason, he had a hard time learning mathematics -- a VERY hard time. His parents tried everything: tutors, reviewing basic operations with him each night after dinner, posting important formulas on the refrigerator, employing a 'reward system' for any homework problem he answered correctly, even a 'punishment system' for scores on tests that they were sure were not indicative of his ability. Nothing worked. Joshua Isenfeld could not seem to get motivated when it came to focusing on anything relating to mathematics. His teacher told his parents that Joshua had a 'math block' and suggested they "let it go"

"After all," the teacher said, "not everyone is born to do everything."

Joshua's parents were not ready to "let it go", and they were sure that a boy as intelligent as their son could -- and should -- be shown how to approach mathematics in a way that would work.

Finally, a neighbor suggested they try something that had not occurred to them: Why not try enrolling him in the Christian parochial school across town? The school had a new math teacher, and rumor had it that the young man was a dedicated and effective educator.

The Isenfelds were not Christian, but they were worried about their son. They felt that math was important – Without it, they asked themselves, What kind of future would he have?

Although their religion made it a personal challenge to send their son to the Christian school, they decided to try enrolling him for one year to see if they could improve his ability to think mathematically.

It worked.

At the end of the school year, Joshua not only excelled in mathematics, but almost seemed to think that success in math was more important than success in any other subject.

Thrilled and baffled, his parents read his end-of-year report card, gave him a hug, and asked the obvious question: How did it happen? Was there a moment in which he felt himself opening up to the fact that he COULD do it, or was it really that some teachers are so much more engaging than others that it could account for the entire transformation?

Joshua answered.

"Well," he said, "On the very first day of school I knew that when it came to math they meant business. Honestly, I almost could not believe how serious they were, but as I entered the building I noticed something that was pretty intense:

"I swear to you, on the building, in plain sight above the front door, they have a giant painting of a guy nailed to a plus sign."



      Hope you enjoyed,



Disclaimer: I am sharing this joke because I believe that is the point of a good joke. HOWEVER, for the second time in the last few weeks, I want to be clear about something: Although I take a (quiet and small) pride in my originality, I did not write this joke. I heard it about thirty years ago, and have been unable to locate its source. SO, if anyone out there does know who its author is, if such an 'author' does exist, then by all means write in and I will give appropriate credit.