A  Set






For better or worse these “definitions” are my own creation.  Undoubtedly my tilted point of view comes from years of working crossword puzzles and from a general passion for words and wordplay.  I am writing this material with the hope of entertaining some kindred spirits and with the hope of planting a few seeds of the wonderful culture of mathematics into the imagination of students here and there.  Over time I will continue to fill in with more “?” marks denoting the availability of explanations and links that I hope will make this site more useful, especially to students.


Comments?  Contributions?  Corrections?  You can email them to me at ksuman@winona.edu.



Ken Suman

Initially Posted on 8/12/2006,   Lasted Edited on 4/15/2015.


A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  XYZ


A                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.    

Abelian  109 or 1012 depending on whether you studied math or maths at school


Abscissa – a person who is self absorbed with their abs


Absolute Geometry – geometry that doesn’t play fair


Absolute Value – nonnegotiable price


Absorbing State“You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.”


Abundant Number – a lot


Acceptance Sampling – launching a trial balloon


Acousmatic – someone who is quick to point fingers


Adding Machine – a good summer


Additive Identity – alias


Adèle Group – the Astaire’s


Adenine – nucleotide that takes 1 to 10


Adiabatic Law – always monitor your glucose level


Affine Variety – what a good store carries


Agonic – someone who lives in the past


Airport Problem – when you lose your in flight internet connection


Alethic – stout


Alexander Polynomial Iksander, Richard Burton, Colin Farrell, but apparently not Leonardo DiCaprio


ALGOL – what Julius Caesar divided into three parts


Aliorelative – onion


Aliter – a little more than a quart


Aliquot – “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”


Allegory – Tipper’s husband when in Rome


Almost Everywhere – where kudzu grows


Almost Surely – Shirley


Alternating GroupAnimagi


Alternation – Vatican City


Amenable Group – The Beatles


Amicable Pair – good friends


Amphibology – switch pitching


Analemma Curve – slant eight


Anallagmatic – Wrangler blue jeans


Analysis – denouement


Analysis of Variance – psychotherapy


Analytic Geometry – creole


Annealing – genuflecting


Annihilator – “weapon of math destruction”


Annuluswhat the unhappy couple asked the priest to do


AnsatzA ‘Convenient’ Truth


Anticlastic – indivisible


Anticomplement – a disparaging word


Antinomy – what’s added to textiles to make them flame retardant (and carcinogenic?)


Antipode – an acrobat who juggles with their feet


Antiset – flavoring for those delicious Italian cookies


Antitone – ‘ill conditioned’


a -Partite Graph – government corruption in South Africa between 1948 and 1994


Apeiron – what Oprah did on The Late Show


Apex – 16 gallons


Apothem what the bluetick pup treed


ApotomeThe Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 17 volumes, James Harrison, editor


Arbelos – where the pirate said the supplies were


Arcuate – without error


Arithmetic GeometryArithmetic on the Frontier


Arrow of Time – an anachronism


Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem – what goes up must come down (assuming we ignore the potential effect of dark energy and trees)


Astroid – a tag for Elroy’s dog


Asymptote – how the farmer got his lame donkey home


Automorphic Form – hardtop convertible


Autoregression – PT Cruiser


Autos Ephacarpeter (carpet layer)


Average – to bid farewell to the anger within


Axiom of ChoiceThe Importance of Being ‘Ernst’


Axis – sacks


B                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Back Substitution – artificial disk replacement


Baire Category – ursine breed


Baire Space – ‘polar plot’


Ballot Problem – rigged election


Bandit Problems – when DoD money dries up for consulting inside the beltway


Barber’s Paradox – stylist’s knot


Basel Problem – skin cancer


Basin of Attraction – the bathroom sink


Bayes’ Rule – wash the tub after each use


Beat the Dealer – Military Commissions Act provision for getting information out of Afghan opium traffickers


Bell NumbersCambridge Surprise Major, Little Bob Minor, Grandsire Triples, …


Bematist Goalpari passu


In the time of Alexander the Great (356 BC – 323 BC) surveyors were trained in the skill of maintaining a fixed length pace, a bema (βήμα), over long distances.  The bema was the distance between successive steps and was roughly two and a half feet.  These human pedometers were called bematists and were able to stay within 1/100 of a bema with each step!


It is a persistent legend that Eratosthenes (276 BC – 194 BC) hired bematists to measure the distance from Alexandria to Syene as part of his famous effort to determine the size of the Earth.  This story is beautifully told in the children’s book The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky and is definitely worth reading by “kids” of all ages.


The Romans, in contrast to the Greeks, defined a pace (Latin passus) as the distance that would bring a land surveyor (Latin agrimensore) back to the same foot (i.e. roughly five feet).  Pari is Latin for “equal” and thus the phrase pari passu translates literally from the Latin as “equal pace”. 


Putting this together, we have that the goal of a bematist (Greek) is to maintain an equal pace, which is the literal translation of the (Latin) phrase pari passu.


Pari passu is now used as a legal phrase with the general meaning of “on equal footing”.  The phrase is also used in finance with the meaning “at the same rate”.


e.g.  All creditors will be treated pari passu.  Incomes for middle class and wealthy families were not increasing pari passu.


The equating of these Greek and Latin phrases apparently has no historical basis.  But that is okay as there is a word for such invented linguistic miscegenations – it’s called macaronic.


And as any Italian restaurateur will tell you, the best way to top off a meal of macaroni like this is with a slice of pari passu, that delicious Italian dessert made with mascarpone cheese.  But then that would be a malapropism and that’s another story altogether.  Fortunately, linguists will forgive all if you say it with a big enough smile.


Benford’s Law – “One is the likeliest number that you’ll ever know.  Two is not as likely as one, but it’s the likeliest number since the number one.”


Bias – the two words parents hear most on the cereal aisle


Bicorn – an option at the Merc


Bicursal – the ability to swear in two languages


Big-Endian, Little-EndianMuch Ado About Nothing


Big M Method – product bundling


Big O Notation – Oscar Robertson’s number


Bing Sling – a highball with a cherry


Binit – when you’ve had your turn in tag


Biplot – selecting your final retirement location


Birthday Problem – old age


Block Scheduling – filibuster


BLUE – bummed


Bonnet Net – snood


Borda Count – 2(A I +1) when in Boston


Boundary Condition – terminal case


Braneworld – “There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.”


Brownian Motion – when a Girl Scout moves to recess


Butterfly Effect Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo!


Butterfly Effect – Psyched


C                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Calculemus – Machiavellian motto


Calculus – the Flintstone’s daughter


Canard SolutionDuck Soup


Canonical Analysis – weapons inspection


Cantor Dust – what a horse kicks up


Cantor’s Middle Third Set – second of an hazan’s three part performance


Cardinal Characteristic – bright red cassock and zucchetto


Carnap Rule – never wake a baby who has fallen asleep in a car seat


Casting Out Nines – pitching your niblicks


Catenary – without even a hint of malice or spite


Catenoid – what you get if you grab a tiger by the tail


Cattle Problem – BSE


Centroids – Emperor Palpatine’s (a.k.a. Darth Sidious) strategy for invading Naboo


Ceteris Paribus – Elsie the Cow


Cheney’s Card Trick – WHIG


Chudnovsky Brothers – piquant


Church’s Thesis – God exists


Cissoid – an impolite way to describe your elder sister


Clinure – the two words kids hear most re their room


CliquesSka Geeks, Metalheads, Goths, Punks, …


Closed Function – a private party


Clustering Illusionapophenia


Cochain – what Joe Paterno is known for


Cofactor – someone faking a cold


Cofinal – what you have when students collude on the end of term exam


Collatz Problem – when pages of your exam are out of order


Column Spacestoa


Combinatorics on Words – magnetic poetry


Common Knowledge – heard throughout the dining hall


Commutative Group – carpoolers


Commutator – a spud-nik


Complement of a Set – best wishes to the newlyweds


Complete Pivoting – an about-face


Completing the SquareThe Princess Diaries


Complex Analysis – study connecting guilt, inferiority, God, persecution, martyrs and nice guys


Complex Numbers – Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 5, and Chopin’s Etude No. 1, Op.10.


Complex Plane – the F-22A Raptor


Comprehensive Exam – day of reckoning


Conic Section – where Dilbert lives


Conjunction – The Joint


Construction Tools – Erector Set


Continued Fraction – an ongoing part


Contour Map – what tourists use at Alcatraz


Contrapositive – Oliver North’s point of view


Control Group – Agents 86 and 99, Chief, Larabee and Hymie


Cook’s Theorem – “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”


Coprimes – bop, hop, lop, mop, pop, sop, top, …


Corner Test – an autopsy


Correlation Implies Causationcum hoc, ergo propter hoc


Coset – Jean Valjean’s daughter


Cossic Artpysanky


Countability of the Rationals – "Everyone is crazy except you and me … and sometimes I wonder about you."


Critical PathMain Street


Critical Point – exigency


Cross Product – double cross


Crunode – Bordeaux


C-Space – an ocean


Curve of Constant Width – spotting everyone the same number of points


Cylinder – what the revenuer asked the bootlegger


D                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Damped Sinesine die


Data Mining – planting a nihilartikel


Data Snooping – what Sherlock Holmes does


Decanting Problems – what Socrates, Martin Luther, Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei had


Decimal SystemPowers of Ten


Degenerate Locus – a real boor


Degree Sequence – Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D.


Deleted Neighborhood – aftereffect of an urban renewal project


Demand Curve – what students often do


Dequeue – ice cream parlor


Deranged Permutations – ‘mental mathematics’


De Revolutionibus – the VW Splittie


DiagnosticPat Robinson’s war cry


Diagonally – where Harry Potter shops


Diameter – a vending machine that eats dimes


Didactic NumbersTake It to the Limit (Eagles), Operator (Jim Croce), Circle (Harry Chapin), Revolution (Beatles)


Digital Computer – a Chisenbopper


Digital Root – toe hold


Digon – typical problem with board games


Directed Graph – organized crime


Disquisitiones – The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band …


Divisible – when the gaming cube is in sight


Dixon’s Identity – Leslie McFarlane


DNA Computers – ‘genetic algorithms’


Dot Product – husband


Double Blind – taking an eye for an eye


Double Blind – turning on your bright lights in retaliation


Double Dotperidot


Double Edged Ruler – benevolent dictator


Double Negative Elimination – when it’s two strikes and you’re out


Doubling the Cube – what you do in backgammon to squeeze your opponent out


Dual Space – field of honor


Dunnett's Test – a quiz to see who has done their homework


Dyadwhat TiVo lets you say to commercials


DyscalculiaWhy Johnny Can’t Add


E                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Elementary Row Operation – feathering


EnqueueAre You Being Served ?


Epistemic JustificationAmerican Pie


Epols – run over the rise


Equals – online qualifying exams


Equant – mathematical financier who works online


Error Correcting Code – the “you break it, you own it” rule


Escher’s Ascending and Descending – going Up the Down Staircase


Essential Supremum – theism


Euler – Jiffy Lube employee


Euler Criteria – every 3 months or 3000 miles


Euler Line – slippery slope


Eversion – online adaptation


Evil Twin Strategy – designing a spoof WiFi hot spot with the intent of intercepting sensitive data


Evolutionary Operation – phylogenetic systematics


Existence Theoremcogito, ergo sum


Existential Quantifier – agnostic


Explement – what it takes to be The Compleat ‘Angle’


Extraction of Roots – pulling teeth


Extraneous Roots – outside sources


F                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Fair Division – proper fraction


Fair Game – open target


Faltings’ Theorem – it’s easier to find it than accept it


Farey SeriesTales of the Brothers Grimm


Fatigue Failure – when your army pants wear out


Feller Property – prostate gland


Ferrari's Method – give it at least a 6 liter, 12 cylinder, 540 horsepower engine


Fictitious PlaySpringtime for Hitler


Field Axioms – ground rules


Field Extension – one way to make it a pitcher’s park


Field’s Medal – potassium


Field Theory – “If you build it, they will come.”


Field Theory – agronomy


Figurate Numbers – 8, 88, 888, …


Final StateNew Jersey


Fisher’s Exact Test – a hanging scale


Fisher Information – depth finder


Fixed Point – what a pencil sharpener gives you


Flexagon – what happens when you get old


Floor Function – to “give me a place to stand” (pou sto)


Floor Function – to make sherry


Fluid Flow – a runny nose


Focal Cord – it vibrates to make sounds


Forcing – new suit bid by responder


Formalist Mathematics – The Great Game


Formally Real Field – Giant’s Stadium


FORTRAN – what the general did


Fourier Series – a line of shoes that comes in widths extra wide to extra narrow


Four Squares Theorem – four squares a day will soon make you round


Free Group – emancipated ones


Freshman’s Dream – a 4.0


Frieze Pattern – snowflake


Full Adder – Adderall


Functional Analysis – a checkup


Fundamental Group – supporting the APA


Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic – the Great Divide


Fuzzy Addition – dim sum


G                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Game of Life – Samsara


Game Theory – rules of play


Generated FieldA New Kind of Science


Genetic AlgorithmsMr. Holland’s (Magnum) Opus


Genetic Algorithms – ‘DNA computers’




Gibbs SamplingBee Gees : Number Ones


GIMPS – Great Internet Mathematical Pun Search


Gnomon – first rule at an all girls school


God’s Algorithm – stella octangula


Goldbach Conjecture – (Copper, Silver, Gold) maps to (Gödel, Escher, Bach)


Golden Ratio – karat


Goniometry – joint analysis


Goodness of Fit Test – trying on a new pair of shoes


Gradient – your mother’s aunt


Gradus SuavitatisThe Sound of Music


Grasshopper Sequence – 28 (B.A.), 30 (M.A.), 34 (Ph.D.), 83 (Commodore), 85 (Admiral)


Gray CodeWest Point regulations


Greatest Common Divisor – a wedge issue


Great Paradox – the Mayo Brothers


Grok Mathematics – “turn coffee into theorems”


Guthrie's Problemfascism


H                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Haar Function – to keep your head warm


Habeas CorpusThe Texan’s Detain Law Massacre


Hairy Ball Theorem – “If you’ve got a taste for terror, then take Carrie to the prom.”


Half-Open – ajar


Half Space – overtrick bonus (points above the line)


Half Spaceen


Halting Problem – faulty brakes


Harmonic Number – a blues harp tune


Harmonic Series – lick


Heaviside Cover-Up Method – wearing loose fitting clothes


Hero’s Formula – rescue the damsel in distress, smile, wave


Hexafoil – amulet


Higher Arithmetic – celestial reckoning


Higher Arithmetic Conference – summit


Hilary Term – 2008 2012 ?


Hippopede – hoof


Hitting Time – 16 or less


Homaloidal SpaceFlatland


Homomorphism – reparative therapy (see Nonstandard Analysis)


Horner’s Method – sticking a thumb in


Horocycle – 12


Hotel InfinityMGM Grand Las Vegas


I                                                                                                  Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

i i  eye to eye


i x i – cross-eyed


2i – ogle


5i – eye for an eye


Ideal Class – “where everyone is above average”


Ideal Pointmot juste


Idempotent – a powerful token


Ill Conditioned – ‘antitone


Illegal Operation – medical malpractice


Ill-Posed Problem – hidden faces in a group photo


Imaginary NumbersFantasia Mathematica


Immanantnomen ambiguum (re immanent, imminent, eminent and emanant)


Incircles – how we often run


Inclusion-Exclusion Principle – ACT/SAT scores


Incomplete Design – adumbration


Indeterminate Form amorphous


Infinite MeanGreat Expectations


Inspection Paradox – it usually takes longer than it usually takes


Insphere – how too many people live


Integration by Parts – gradual desegregation


Integration by Substitution – forced busing


Into Mapping – a cartographer


Inverse Probability

Probability seems to remain

An idea I’ve yet to attain.

I was sure I played right

In my poker tonight,

But my fortune it went down the drain.


Inversiondernier cri




Ising Problem – being a note behind and a step off-key


Iterated Series – reruns


J                                                                                                  Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Jordan Normal Form – just over 30 ppg


K                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

K2 – Austin Godwin


Kaprekar NumberClaudette Colbert (Ellie) shows off her leg


KernelBlotto’s rank


Kissing Number – count your buss-ings


Klein Bottle – a small carafe


Knapsack Problem – a sleeping bag that’s too small


Knot Curve – straight


Knot Equivalence – difference


Know It All Number999 !


L                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Lah Number – six in the solfa


L'Analyse des Infiniment Petits – nanotechnology


Language of Arithmetic – Adder’s Tongue


Latin Square Cato the Elder


Lattice-Ordered Group – everyone at the table who wanted a salad


Law of Sines – stop, yield, and no passing


Law of the Excluded Middle – the U distribution


Law of Truly Large Numbers – 2À0 = À1  is undecidable


Leading Digit – forefinger


Least Favorable Distribution – corridor of uncertainty


Least Favorable Prior – the most disliked person in the abbey


Least Squares – hippest


Left Censoring – aphesis


Liber Abaci – a showman with a silver candelabrum


Lie Group – Army of Northern Virginia


Lim Sup – cannibal favorite on cold damp days


Littlewood’s Law – “then a miracle occurs” occurs


Local Min or Local Maxperipeteia


Loess – s


Logarithm – poetry


Logistic Curve – procurement snag


Logit – how to harvest a forest


Long Tailmegillah


Lorenz Curve – when your cheap apartment suddenly quits being cheap


LuneMinnesota’s state bird


M                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Mahler’s Number – a thousand (an orchestra of 250 and a chorus of 750)


Majorant – army ant


Majorize – bring up to the bigs


Maltitude – a large gathering at the shopping center


Markov Chains – used to mark off first downs


Mathemagicianruler of Digitopolis


Mathematical Maturitymusemathematics


Mathesis – “We may be coming to a new golden age of instrument making.”


Mathesis Universalis – Catholic reckoning


MathSciNetThe Paper Chase r


Matric – Beltane ring and run


Measure Preserving TransformationMeasure for Measure


Mellin Transformhoneylope


Memoryless Property – amnesia


Mental Mathematics – ‘deranged permutations’


Meter – what Cary Grant hoped to do atop the Empire State Building


Method of Exhaustion – a form of torture, regardless …


Method of False Position – playing the devil’s advocate


Method of Washers – agitate, rinse and spin


Minorant – pet peeve


MinuendsYehudi and his two sisters


Minus Five – Paul Desmond standard


Misomaths – adenoids


Mod 3Pete, Linc and Julie


Modulus – when you are not as fashionable


Monster-Barring – what a night light is for


Monster Group – Titans


Monty Hall Problem – “To switch, or not to switch : that is the question:”


Moore Space – what everybody wants in their garage


Music of the Spheres – tinnitus


Mutatis Mutandis – put on a fresh diaper


N                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Nadir – a spoiler


Napoleon’s ProblemWaterloo


Natural Numbers – 7-11


Negatively Oriented – critical


Neusis Construction – when your mom is pregnant with a baby girl


Neutral GeometerThe No-Sided Professor


Nilpotent – weak


Nine Point Circle – SCOTUS at a round-table


Nodated – stag




Non-Orientable n-ManifoldLost n-Space


Nonstandard Analysis – method outside of the APA Practice Guidelines


Nontransitive – not admitting a theodolite


Nowhere Dense – polymath


Nowhere Differentiable – identical


Null Space – vacuum


Number Sense – anesthesia


O                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

ObeliskAsterix’s comic sidekick


Oblate – recently


Occupancy Problem – Iraq


Ogive – how one requests a home on the range


OloidRolie Polie Olie


One-Tailed – Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell and Emily Bronte


One-to-One Correspondence – tête-à-tête


Open and Shut the Doors Problem – Jim Morrison’s addictions


Operations Research – surgical trials


Operator – someone who wouldn’t enjoy Fermat’s Last Tango


Ordered Group – plebes


Order of Operations – anesthetize before cutting


Order Statistics – accounts payable records


Organon – popular way to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor listen


Outlier – someone who gets a tan the old fashioned way


Overdamped – soggy


Ovoid – to eschew


P                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Painlevé Equation – take two aspirin and get some rest


Pangeometry – what The Elements made Sylvester do


Paradigms – 20 cents


Parity Error – as in commited, writen, and commitee


Partial Fraction – a tiff


Partial Order – appetizers


Partial Summation – half adder


Partition into Distinct Parts – ability grouping


Partition into Odd Parts – gerrymander


Pedal Point – At the very moment Johann Sebastian Bach started his command performance of Toccata in F Major (BWV 540) for his benefactor Prince Leopold, Bach’s youngest son, (P.D.Q. Bach, 21st of his 20 children) sat on a bass pedal of the organ.  J.S. Bach had no choice but to play on as if this sustained bass pedal note was intentional.  It took 54 bars but Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena, was eventually able to extract P.D.Q. from that bass pedal.  This incident, led musicologist Peter Schickele to describe P.D.Q. Bach as “the worst musician ever to have trod organ pedals.”


Perfect Field – Elysian


Perfect FieldField of Dreams


Perigees – a straight angle (i.e. two right turns)


Perigees – Leslie Caron


PerimeterThe Outer Limits


Permutation – counter counter proposal


Philo’s Line – “The triple pillar of the world transform'd into a strumpet's fool: behold and see.”


Phyllotaxis – what the “Sons of Liberty” had had


Picard’s Method – ask Data


Pick’s Rule – you cut, I pick


Pillow Problems – stiff necks


Plateau’s Law – good employees within an organization will enthusiastically advance to the highest level open to them but will then ultimately retire on the job


Playfair’s Axiom – the fundamental rule of the playground


Poisson Processtrawling


Polar Axis – Alaskan adzes


Polar Coordinate – a bare spot


Polar Plot – ‘Baire space’


Polya Process – census


Polygon – bird flu


Polykay – KKK


Polytope – shiver of sharks


Pons Asinorum – bridge to a clean and dry county


Porism – one “who works with a negligent hand”


PositiveBeyond the Zero


Positively Skewed – definitely in big trouble


Posterior Bayes Risk – the potential for hurting your backside in the tub


Pothenot Problem – when the next rest area is another hundred miles


Power of a Point – they stymie opponents when made in debates or backgammon


Power Tower – utility pole


P Problem – UTI


Prime – a run of six made points


Prime Elements – B, N, K, V, I  and others


Prime Factors – most important reasons


Prime Ring – the Mob


Principal Ideal Domain – Garden of Eden




Prisoner’s Dilemma – orange dye is both necessary and sufficient for big-house fashion


Prisoner’s Problem – “Who is Number 1?”


Probabilistic Methodcleromancy


Probit Analysis – an ultrasound


Problem of Points – when made too often you are left without a pencil or friends


Problem of the Nile – you’re only fooling yourself


Products – University of Oregon fans




Bullet Proof – a proof that cannot be easily shot down


Burden of Proof – dementia


Sound Proof – a proof that holds up against even the loudest critic


Reproof – when your professor scoffs at your proof and tells you to redo it


Proofreader – a math professor


Goof Proof – when you make a wrong turn in your proof


Proof of Purchase – L'Hôpital’s Rule


Overproof – Q.E.D.


Proper Fraction – fair division


Prophecy – what students are not likely to be able to do in a large lecture section


Proposition – one side of a debate


Prosecutor's Fallacy – going up against Perry Mason


Prosthaphaeresisante –logarithms


Protractor – a staller


Public-Key CryptologyTukey Model


Publish or PerishThe Paper Chase


Punnett Square – someone who spends their day thinking up puns


Pure MathematicsMath You Can't Use


PythagorasThe Wizard of ‘Om


Pythagorean – vegetarian


Q                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Quadrant – diatribe in the atrium


Quadrature – test driving an Audi with full-time all-wheel drive


Quincunx – a pair of skunks


Quine – phoenix


R                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Raabe’s Criterion – foaming at the mouth


Radical Center – faculty lounge


Radon Measure – picocuries per liter


Ramsey Theory – he is atoning for indicting Dr. Spock


Randomized Block Design – your typical Lego creation


Randomized Responses fibs


Rational Root – a sound foundation


RattlebackSpinal Tap


Raw Score – a method of tenderizing meat


Reciprocity Law – the Golden Rule


Recursive Relation – Aunt Marge casting invectives again


Reduced Echelon – demoted


Reduction Formula – a diet plan


Relative Error – when your in-laws stay too long


Relaxation Method – yoga


Renewal Process – renaissance


Renorming Test Scores – ‘retrograde analysis’


Repeated MeasuresDa Capo


Repeated Sumdoubleplus


Repetend – when another goldfish jumps out of the tank


Repunit – a recycled pun


Restricted Compositions – canons


Retrograde Analysis – ‘renorming test scores’


Retrograde Motion – student’s request to have their exam rescored


Reverse Hex – exorcise


Reverse Mathematicsopsimath


Reversion to the Mean – getting angry again


Rhumb Line – what sailors form while awaiting their tot


Right Annihilator – Al Franken


Right Censoringapocope


Ring TheoryTom Bombadil is a Maia


River Crossing Problem – seasickness


Robbins Equation – a worm in the beak is worth two in the ground


Roman NumeralsSumma Theologiae


Roman Numerals – restoration of the Sistine Chapel


Roots of Unity – foundation for peace


RSA Numbers – tally marks on the Ochre Stone


Rule of Three – “Then, shalt thou count to three.  No more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.”


Runs Test – 100-meter dash


S                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Saltus – what French fries scream


Scalar – disarray


Schubert CycleDie schöne Müllerin


Scottish Bookbistromathics


Seasonal Time Seriesostinato


Secants – what a ship does to get turned around


Secants – what Ann Coulter does


Secretary’s Problem – carpal tunnel syndrome


Self Complementary – tooting your own horn


Self Dual – beating yourself up


Self Similarity – synecdoche


Semigroup – convoy


Semiprime – the Prime Mover


Series Expansion – when the LCS went to 7 games


Set – awkward moment after being put down but before you take a hike


Shadow Reckoning – ‘umbral calculus’


Shift Operator – plant supervisor working graveyard


Signum – what you do with checks


Simple Graph – petty bribery


Simple HypothesisA Modest Proposal


Simplex – an oxymoron describing anything which is at once simple and complex.  For example, love, truth and carbohydrates.


Simpson’s Paradox – Maggie shot Mr. Burns


Singularity – 2045 A.D.


Singular Value – Sudoku


Sinh – easily done


Sinical – believing the worst


Slide Rule – no budging


Slope Field – hillside farm


Soma Cube – felicific calculus


Space Filling Curvehorror vacui


Spira MirabilisAnnu’s sister


Square the Lune – a Debussy favorite


Squaring the Circle – truing the wheel


Squeeze Rule – from the bottom up


Standard Deviant – your typical reprobate


Standard Error – common mistake


Standard Position – the party line


Static Equilibrium – peacetime


Stepwise Analysis – podiatric research


Strange AttractorCall of the Wild


Strange AttractorWhere the Wild Things Are


String Theory Cordon rule




Subcover – lettuce and tomatoes


Subset – a pair of Seawolfs


Subtracted – nonplussed


Subtracting – dropping sonobouys


Sumset – gloaming


Superposition – “in the catbird seat”


Superposition – building manager


Supremum Limit – omnipotence paradox


Surreal Numbers: How Two Ex-Students Turned on to Pure Mathematics and Found Total HappinessDonald in Mathmagic Land


Symmetry – to climb a tree without branches


Syntheme – story line of the Old Testament


Synthetic Division – an invented issue


T                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Tac Tix – a tractrix to the complete non-rhotic


Tail Event – wagging


Tautochrone – what Hansel and Gretel did with a good lesson


Taylor’s Seriesseamster’s line


Teacher’s Pets – students with Beatitudes (be-prepared,          be-attentitive, and be-curious)


Teaching Rules!


1.  Do no harm.  (Children are born with sympathy for learning – apathy and antipathy take training.)


2.  Leave the world a better place.  (Teach the students you have to become the ones you were hoping for.)


3.  Inspire courage.  (Teach students to be as confident in their abilities and convictions as you are in yours.)


4.  Be patient and reward endurance.  (Education is a race where the winners are those who never finish.)


5.  Make connections.  (No student ever went blind by staring at the bigger picture for too long.)


6.  Draw distinctions.  (An appreciation for differences never started a war.)


7.  Nurture criticism.  (Good vision involves seeing what isn’t as well as what is.)


8.  Aim high.  (The goal is to build extraordinary people, not just extraordinary students.)


9.  Work yourself out of job.  (Teach students how to teach themselves.)


10.  Leave them smiling.  (The student who has found the way to enjoy learning will never be lost.)



Tensor – more nervous


Terminating Renewal Process – doublespeak for getting canned


The French MathematicianA Series of Unfortunate Events


The Analyst : A Discourse Addressed to an Infidel MathematicianThe Calculus Affair (Adventures of Tintin)


Theorema Egregium – rank theorem


Theory of PollsThe Parrot’s Theorem


Thou shall have but three regular tilings of the plane Torah


Three – Lawrence Welk count-off


Three Body Problem diagramming all forces acting on a given rigid object


Topologically Distinct – holier than thou


Total Positivity – Pollyanna


Totative – not too heavy to carry


Transcendental Number – 10


Transfinite Numbers“to infinity and beyond”


Transitive Group – nomads


Translation OperatorOulipo +N algorithm


Translation Operator – Babel fish


Traveling Salesman Problem – Willy Loman complex


Triangle Inequality – when three’s a crowd


Truel – Lionel’s honest brother


Truth Table – to put off honesty for a later date


Turing Machine – a bike with many gears


Twin Paradox – Sylvester and Cayley


Twin Primes Harman Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek




U                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Umbral Calculus – ‘shadow reckoning’


Unary – stuffy


Unate – disgorge


UnboundedFrom Here to Eternity




Unitary FractionA Separate Peace


Universal Mathematician – Thoth


Urn Problem – The Leaky Cauldron


V                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Versed CosineDudley to Harry Potter


Versed Sine – initial indicator


Vicenary – Utopian


Vulgar Fraction – a nasty break-up


W                                                                                                 Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Waring’s Problem – when your pants quit fitting


Wavelet – a little vague


Well Ordered – not “putting Descartes before the horse”


Wetware – raincoat


WFF ‘N PROOF – A fantastic method of proof combining ‘scratch and sniff’ with ‘proof without words’ patented by the research team of Arlo Lipof, a mathematician at the Univ. of Western Ontario, George P. Burdell, an expert in bioinformatics at Georgia Tech, and Dr. Larry Kyle, founder of Genway, ‘the supermarket for genetically engineered foods’.  Together they formed the company Maieutica.


The strong connection between smells and memory is at the heart of the company’s approach.  Their breakthrough was in mapping specific smells to specific memory triggers.  Lipof, who is of Greek heritage, believes like Socrates that the human brain innately possesses the building blocks of all mathematical knowledge and that these blocks lie in wait for the right trigger to be expressed.  This idea is called maieutics, which roughly translates from the Greek as ‘intellectual midwifery’ and is one of four parts of the socratic method.  For Socrates the memory trigger was a series of guided questions.  At Maieutica, the memory trigger is a series of carefully sequenced smells determined by their newly discovered mapping.


Lipof contacted Burdell with some of his ideas in 2002.  At that time Burdell was wrapping up his part in the 13-year Human Genome Project (HGP) and was shopping for his next big project.  Burdell was initially skeptically, but he knew of Lipof’s reputation for doing what others thought impossible.  (In the late 1980’s Lipof led a South American team, where many fortunes were secured, in what is thought to be the first and only practical application of the Banach-Tarski paradox.  A brief sketch about this highly successful business venture appeared in the April 1989 issue of Scientific American.)


Lipof then brought Kyle onto the team.  Kyle, who is a regular guest on MPR (Minn. Public Radio), is regarded by his peers as a creative genius with a flair for the unusual.  Kyle was able to genetically engineer smells based on recent advances in olfaction that have occurred as a direct result of the Human Genome Project. Dilution to threshold ratios (parts of clean air to scented air) as sensitive as 70,000 to 1 were considered.


Finally Lipof had a group of graduate students translate Euclid’s Elements into formal proofs, a low level mathematical language that can be likened to machine code in computer science.


It was a four year process to map each step of each formal proof to a specific smell at a precise dilution to threshold ratio.  But with this olfactory mapping Maieutica has the code for unlocking geometry for the next generation of students who would rather smell than study.


Whetstone of Witte – where to sharpen your humor


XYZ                                                                                Click on the ? marks

                                                                                                                                        for more details.

Yule Process – shop till you drop


ZFC AxiomsFoundation Series






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