Public Release: 

New book puts mirth in math

Williams College

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., August 17, 2009 -- Peanut butter and jelly, strawberries and cream, math and ... humor? In math professor Colin Adams' newest collection of stories, math and laughs are the world's next big winning combination. "Riot at the Calc Exam and Other Mathematically Bent Stories" (American Mathematical Society, 2009) is chock full of comedic spoofs that aim to eradicate students' anxieties about math.

Compiled largely from Adams' "Mathematically Bent" column in the Mathematical Intelligencer, the collection contains many stories that are parodies of well-known tales or styles of writing tailored to the mathematical theme. Jokes span the field of math and the academic environment in which mathematicians work.

"The Mathematical Ethicist" answers troubled mathematicians' moral dilemmas; a professor confronts a man who comes to his office claiming to have "a proof of God"; and one story facetiously touts the merits of the Theorum Blaster (All Rights Reserved), which will help you trim your overweight theorum down to a manageable size.

At a class reunion for functions, Natural Log commiserates with Cosine over the fact that his wife Exponential Function left him; Dirk Magnum, P.I. is a principal investigator for the National Science Foundation; and a Worst-Case-Scenario Survival Handbook expertly advises on the perils of mathematics.

Adams, the Thomas T. Read Professor of Mathematics at Williams College, has received the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics in 1998 and Baylor University's Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers in 2003. A recipient of multiple National Science Foundation grants for his work on hyperbolic-3 manifolds, he was also a co-founder of the SMALL Undergraduate Research Program at Williams and also a Sigma Xi Distinguished lecturer for 2000-02.

Adams also has numerous lecture series, DVDs, and books that endeavor to make math less intimidating. He gives talks around the country as Mel Slugbate, a Texas real estate agent working in hyperbolic space, and Sir Randolph Bacon III, who lectures about "What Knot to Do When Sailing," an exploration of knot theory. He and math professor Tom Garrity have created two DVDs popular with high schools: "The Great Pi/e Debate: Which is the Better Number?" and "The United States of Mathematics Presidential Debate." He is the author of two humorous "streetwise guides" on how to ace calculus.

Adams received his B.S. from MIT in 1978 and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college's 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students' educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student's financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted. To visit the college on the Internet:

Media contact: Jo Procter, news director; tele: (413) 597-4279; email:

Reporters: For review copies of Prof. Adams' book, contact Stephen Heywood at

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