Guest Post: A Very Merry Mathy Christmas

Today’s guest post comes from Madison Hodson, an instructor at AcerPlacer who recently earned her BS in mathematics from Weber State University. Congratulations, Maddy! We are all very proud of you!

Merry Christmas everybody, it’s Maddy from AcerPlacer! Today I would like to talk about the Mathematics of Christmas. This article is based on the book The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus by Dr. Hannah Fry and Dr. Thomas Evans. Today I’ll be talking about a few of the most important aspects of Christmas such as wrapping the Christmas tree in garland, buying presents, and – of course – the existence of Santa Claus.

If you are thinking of adorning your tree in garland, but are unsure how much garland you’ll need to buy – have no fear, there is a formula for you to use that will provide you with the exact length of garland needed for your Christmas tree! Let’s first make a little sense of the equation before I present it to you. If h represents the height of your Christmas tree, r is the radius of the base, and n is the number of loops around the tree you want your garland to make, knowing all of those numbers can help you plug them into this equation and presto – you’ll get out the perfect length for your garland!

Happy wrapping!

Moving on to the presents, it’s likely that most of us want to maximize our gift giving and receiving during a gift exchange. Please note, this doesn’t always mean giving and receiving to most expensive gifts you can find! What we will use in this next equation is the value of the gift you will give, the value of the gift you will receive, and those warm fuzzy feelings you get while giving the gift. These variables will provide us with a much simpler equation than the one we just looked at:

Total Utility = Value of the gift received – value of gift offered + beneft of offering gift

Now it might be hard to quantify the benefit of offering a gift (those fuzzy feelings) so to make it simpler just assume that the benefit is equal to have to half of the gift’s value. Now our equation looks like this:

There may be a few challenges in attaining maximized gift giving and receiving, such as determining the value of the gift before you actually receive it (which would ruin all surprises), but hey – the possibility is out there!

Last but definitely not least, let’s talk about the existence of Santa Claus. In the book the authors make two claims:

  1. An existing Santa exists.
  2. An existing Santa does not exist.

We know that one of these statements is true, but statement 2 seems to contradict itself so let’s take a closer look at it. Can an existing Santa not exist? By definition, something that exists “has reality, being, or lives,” so then an existing Santa must be alive and must be real. This means the second claim is false, leaving the first claim to be true!

There you have it, folks – Santa is real, maximized gift giving is attainable, and your Christmas tree will be Instagram worthy with its perfectly wrapped garland.

Until next Christmas, may your math be merry and bright!

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Guest Post: An Ode to Victor Borge and a Story

Jodie Larsen has a BS in applied mathematics from BYU-Idaho with a minor in biology. In addition to teaching at AcerPlacer, she tutors students on several topics in math.

Børge Rosenbaum (1909 – 2000), known professionally as Victor Borge, was a Danish and American comedian, conductor, and pianist (he was a prodigy) who achieved great popularity in radio and television in the United States and Europe. His blend of music and comedy earned him humorous nicknames such as “The Clown Prince of Denmark”.

One of his most famous bits was called “Inflationary Language,” in which he added one to every number or homophone of a number in the words he spoke. For example: “once upon a time” becomes “twice upon a time,” “wonderful” becomes “twoderful,” and “anyone for tennis” becomes “anytwo five elevennis,”. Since prices keep going up, he reasoned, why shouldn’t language go up too (three)?

I used to watch his routines and incredible musical talent growing up with my siblings and my parents (my mom is a piano prodigy herself!) on gasp VHS tapes. Teaching math as I do, I like to talk about this sketch as a humorous side note when math is becoming a bit intense (if that’s possible?!). Every time I read or create a passage in inflationary language, it gives me the giggles – I can’t help it – I love punny, silly humor! The following is a story Victor Borge was fond of reading in inflationary language – see if you can pick up each instance of inflation!

Jack and the Twoderful Beans

Twice upon a time there lived a boy named Jack in the twoderful land of Califivenia. Two day Jack, a double-minded lad, decided three go fifth three seek his fivetune.

After making sure that Jack nine a sandwich and drank some Eight-Up, his mother elevenderly said, “Threedeloo, threedeloo. Try three be back by next Threesday.” Then she cheered, “Three, five, seven, nine. Who do we apprecinine? Jack, Jack, yay!”

Jack set fifth and soon met a man wearing a four-piece suit and a threepee. Fifthrightly Jack asked the man, “I’m a Califivenian. Are you two three?”

“Cerelevenly,” replied the man, offiving the high six. “Anytwo five elevennis?”

“Not threeday,” answered Jack inelevently. “But can you help me three locnine my fivetune?”

“Sure,” said the man. “Let me sell you these twoderful beans.”

Jack’s inthreeition told him that the man was a three-faced triple-crosser. Elevensely Jack shouted, “I’m not behind the nine ball. I’m a college gradunine, and I know what rights our fivefathers crenined in the Constithreetion. Now let’s get down three baseven about these beans.”

The man tripled over with laughter. “Now hold on a third,” he responded. “There’s no need three make such a three-do about these beans. If you twot, I’ll give them three you.”

Well, there’s no need three elabornine on the rest of the tale. Jack oned in on the giant and two the battle for the golden eggs. His mother and he lived happily fivever after — and so on, and so on, and so fifth.

© Copyright 2000 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)

Since this article is being posted around Thanksgiving, I leave you with this… I sincerely hope everytwo is able three go fiveth three see family and friends and eat a twoderful feast of fascinineting goodies. I hope your turkeys are elevender and full of magnifidollar flavor. I hear there is an inelevense storm coming so go fiveth with care and arrive in two pieces….. Hang on a third… maybe I should stop befive I go three far…..