• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: April Fools!

Humor issues.

March 31, 2016

In one of my math classes, my students learn how to calculate the day of the week on which any selected date falls. On what day of the week was your grandmother born? On what day of the week did the Civil War begin? Answers to these questions can be answered easily. Using a formula that involves some concepts from Number Theory as well as knowledge of the “least greatest integer” function, one is able to find the day of the week for any date throughout most of history. I found myself thinking of this recently when I realized that April Fools day was approaching, a day of pranks that may have arisen due to a major change in the calendar. As we celebrate that day today, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge this rather odd “holiday” that brings a smile to my face and some mischievous ideas to the mind of my daughter.

While the actual origins of April Fools Day are still being debated, it is possible that the day began with France’s movement to the Gregorian calendar in the 1500s, when the “new year” was moved from late March to January. This led to a situation where those who continued to celebrate it in April were seen as fools. Of course, those of us who are part of academics know when the true New Year falls; late August or early September!

When I was in college, it was tradition for the campus newspapers that published on April 1st to produce an edition that was filled with April Fools jokes. Alas, I was never invited to participate in writing those editions, and my contributions to one of the newspapers were limited to reports on more serious issues. I am not sure how much I would have been able to add to what turned out to be literary works of art created by students in their late teens. I do know, however, that participating in the creation of those editions must have been a lot of fun, and surely would have created some amazing memories of college years.

I learned that some college newspapers went too far in publishing such April Fools editions. This makes me wonder if anyone was offended by the jokes that were published during my years in college, and whether I was so clueless about the feelings of my fellow students that I may have thought that things were funny when they just were not. I know, after all, that I spent many of my college years in a state of “cluelessness” as a first generation college student who was out of my comfort zone as a student at a major university in a large metropolitan city. I also wonder whether such a tradition continues there to this day, although I suspect that it does. Readers, do your colleges produce an April Fools edition of your own newspapers, and if so, do faculty advisors make sure that the jokes are in good taste?

I am not very good at coming up with April Fools jokes, so I was happy to find a listing of possible jokes that seemed funny and not TOO mean. Do any of my readers have fond memories of particular April Fools day pranks that they have played on others or been the target of? If so, I would love to hear about them; but, for my safety and sanity, just don’t let my husband or daughter know any details about them!


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