Cookie Proof

Scene: Thursday, a rare bon-bon afternoon on sofa, comforter up to my neck, watching movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins in which they both play crazy and maybe-crazy super-mathematicians.

4-year-old wanders in and snuggles down.

4-year-old: Can I have a cookie?

Mother: In a second.



4yo: What is that lady doing?

Mother: She’s uh…she’s doing a math problem.

4yo: Is she a teacher?

Mother: She’s a mathematician.

4yo: Does she teach math?

Mother: No. She just does math problems. Works out big long math problems that are very, very hard. She’s very smart. Super smart.

4yo: I’m good at math!

Mother: You are! You are very good at math!

4yo: Why is she yelling at that man? Why is that man sitting outside in the snow?

Mother: Mmmm…well, that’s her dad and he’s not…uh…feeling well. He is very good at math, too. That is his job. Math.

4yo: Oh. Math can make you sick.

Mother: Uh…well…no, he’s sick for other reasons.

4yo: Maybe from learning his alphabet.

Mother: Well…hmmm….

4yo: What is she writing in that book?

Mother: It's a proof, a kind of math problem. The proof she's writing is very long and very difficult. She is so good at math, she is writing one math problem that is 40 pages long. She has been working on it for days and days and weeks and months.

4yo: I bet it’s like 4+5+2+7+1+3+5+3+5.…

Mother: Yes…

4yo: …+4+6+5+7+2+132+2+infinity+2+65+three gagillion, fifty bazillion+2+1.…

Mother: It is.

4yo: …+3+5+6+6+678.…

Mother: That’s a long one, for sure.

4yo: …minus fifty-thirty.

Mother: Let’s be quiet for a second, okay?



4yo: I was quiet for five seconds.

Mother: Yes. You were. Let’s watch the movie for a few more seconds, 'kay?



4yo: I am going to be a mathematician when I grow up….

Mother: I know you can do it.

4yo: …and a rock star.

Mother: Just like Laurie Anderson.

4yo: And if you are sitting out in the snow, I won’t yell at you.

Mother: Thank you.



4yo: Can I have 1+1 cookies now?

Mother: Sure. Let’s go.

4yo: And Mommy, in case you don’t know, that equals two cookies.

Mother: I’m on the phone to Princeton as we speak.

Movie off. Scene.


anne said...


You'll be happy to know that in a few years your little one will have much more interest in the plot of the movie.

For instance, she will wander into the room 45 minutes into the movie and ask you to explain the entire plot thus far as well as each of the characters traits and motivations, but not letting you stop the actual movie to explain, and continuously asking you questions about what is going on right now while you are still explaining things from the first 45 minutes they missed.

And she will already have eaten 3+1 cookies.

Michael Plank said...

Yah, and I know *just* who she'll get that trait from! And she'll ask, "Who's that actor again?" when it's, like, JACK F'IN NICHOLSON or somebody.

We don't actually watch a lot of movies, although we must be having a crazy math guy festival because last night we watched Good Will Hunting. I guess next we'll have to watch that one with that guy where he's all crazy and mathy and stuff. Who's that actor? Oh, yeah, Russell Crowe. said...

I do NOT ask when it's Jack Nicholson!

I'm a movie talkin' gal...I just always get Ed Harris and what's-his-name mixed up...James Cann. I mean Robert Duvall.

Oh, and Toby McGuire and Jake Gylllyynnlllennnalllhall.



Anonymous said...

Perhaps my darling mother may have confused her offspring with her spouse whom she willingly married...


Unknown said...

I just have to mention here that I found this hysterical ... and knowing his fondness for anything math-y in nature ... I immediately shared it with Joe. Who promptly asked if I could print it out so he could post it on his office door. I guess posting math humor on office doors is what math professors do for fun. ;) Seriously, you slayed both of us with "Math can make you sick." Truer than you know.

ninjapoodles said...

Math CAN make you sick. I only survived college with a Valium prescription that read, I kid you NOT, "Take 1-2 30 minutes before algebra class." Because it made me vomit and shake and sweat and occasionally black out. I think they call that "math anxiety."

But my favorite part of this post?

"And if you are sitting out in the snow I won't yell at you."

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