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I am supposed to be presenting a poem in my undergraduate math class, that relates to mathematics. The point of the presentation is to show the beauty of math , and the fun of it ,and also it will help us "appreciate math more" according to my professor! Which I definitely agree with. The poem that I have so far is "the square root of 3" by Dave Feinberg:

I’m sure that I will always be,
a lonely number like root three.
The three is all that’s good and right,  
why must my three keep out of sight?

Beneath the vicious square root sign,  
I wish instead I were a nine 
For nine could thwart this evil trick,  
with just some quick arithmetic.

I know I’ll never see the sun, 
as 1.7321. 
Such is my reality, 
a sad irrationality.

When hark! What is this I see,  
another square root of a three!
As quietly co-waltzing by,  
together now we multiply
to form a number we prefer,  
rejoicing as an integer.

We break free from our mortal bonds
with the wave of magic wands.
Our square root signs become unglued  
Your love for me has been renewed.

I was hoping to hear other ideas of poems that anyone found interesting and would think are good to share with math enthusiasts! I know this question might be a little off topic, but I feel that I will get the best advice on this forum!

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closed as off-topic by Antonio Vargas, Macavity, M Turgeon, user72694, Stefan Hansen Dec 10 '13 at 16:44

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question is not about mathematics, within the scope defined in the help center." – Antonio Vargas, Macavity, M Turgeon, user72694, Stefan Hansen
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Not poems exactly, but many of the lyrics of Tom Lehrer. –  André Nicolas Dec 9 '13 at 8:46
Thank you for your response, I too am a fan! Any specific relevant lyrics that you feel are your favorite? –  waj cheema Dec 9 '13 at 8:51
One man deserves the credit/One man deserves the blame/Nikolai Ivanovitch Labocevsky is his name! Any and all spelling errors mine, of course! –  Robert Lewis Dec 9 '13 at 9:00
possible duplicate of Mathematics understood through poems? –  Rahul Dec 9 '13 at 10:00
Community wiki? –  Daniel R Dec 9 '13 at 10:28

22 Answers 22

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Imho what you need is not a poem - these can be pretty boring. So just as a counter-suggestion:
Add a few fancy chords and check out Youtube:
"I will derive" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9dpTTpjymE

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Haha great find! I would love to do this but I double I have the guts for it! –  waj cheema Dec 9 '13 at 9:29
Haha, great idea! Let's go Waj, do it! And record it, so we can have fun too... :) –  plang Dec 9 '13 at 10:33
Just remember to never drink and derive. –  Adam Stelmaszczyk Dec 9 '13 at 10:53
For those who understand Spanish: youtube.com/watch?v=OXrYNPJQoTA –  leonbloy Dec 9 '13 at 12:06
British electropop superstar Little Boots wrote a great but little-known track with a lot of clever mathematical references youtube.com/watch?v=zNZpfuINduE –  Roy Hyunjin Han Dec 9 '13 at 12:41

Roses are red.

Violets are approximately blue.

A paracompact manifold with a Lorentzian metric,

can be a spacetime, if it has dimension greater than or equal to two.

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Roses are red, Violets are too, If moving away, At near lightspeed from you. –  NikolajK Dec 10 '13 at 14:35
Why can't a 1 dimensional paracompact manifold with a Lorentzian metric be a spacetime? As long as you have a time-direction, all is well. –  goblin Jan 1 at 2:15

And there's always topological rhyme doggerel:

A mathematician confided

That a Möbius band is one-sided,

And you'll get quite a laugh

If you cut one in half,

For it stays in one piece when divided!

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Great to meet you today! –  copper.hat Jan 5 '14 at 20:57
Likewise I'm sure. I look forward to our next face-to-face encounter! –  Robert Lewis Jan 5 '14 at 21:06
Here's a little more rhyme doggerel added as a post-closure comment: Three jolly sailors from Blaydon-on-Tyne/All went to sea in a bottle by Klein./Since the sea was entirely inside the hull,/The scenery scene was exceedingly dull! –  Robert Lewis Jan 5 '14 at 21:07
Excellent! Send me an email sometime. –  copper.hat Jan 5 '14 at 21:16
And indeed I shall! –  Robert Lewis Jan 5 '14 at 21:51

How about

$\color{blue}{\frac{12 + 144 + 20 + 3 \sqrt{4}}{7} + (5 \times 11) = 9^2+0}$


A dozen, a gross, and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more.

Source: http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/mayhem.htm

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I had a prof who gave us this bit by Jacob Bernoulli in an attempt to get us excited about delta-epsilon proofs.

Treatise on Infinite Series

Even as the finite encloses an infinite series

And in the unlimited limits appear,

So the soul of immensity dwells in minutia

And in narrowest limits no limits inhere.

What joy to discern the minute in infinity!

The vast to perceive in the small, what divinity!

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Now that is bad. In the good sense, of course! –  Robert Lewis Dec 9 '13 at 9:07

How about Gilbert and Sullivan's Modern Major General:

And I am well acquainted with methods mathematical,

I understand equations both the simple and quadratical,

About binomial theorem I am teeming with a lot of news,

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypoteneuse!

Well, that's pretty close, I'll warrant!

Hope this helps. Cheerio,

and as always,

Fiat Lux!!!

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It's not a poem (exactly) but there's always the Mandelbrot set song. Oh: and "Reel," by Vi Hart - a poem about $i=\sqrt{-1}$.

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Poe, E.: Near a Raven:


Poe, E. - Near a Raven

Midnights so dreary, tired and weary.
Silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.
During my rather long nap - the weirdest tap!
An ominous vibrating sound disturbing my chamber's antedoor.
"This", I whispered quietly, "I ignore".

Perfectly, the intellect remembers: the ghostly fires, a glittering ember.
Inflamed by lightning's outbursts, windows cast penumbras upon this floor.
Sorrowful, as one mistreated, unhappy thoughts I heeded:
That inimitable lesson in elegance - Lenore -
Is delighting, exciting...nevermore.

Ominously, curtains parted (my serenity outsmarted),
And fear overcame my being - the fear of "forevermore".
Fearful foreboding abided, selfish sentiment confided,
As I said, "Methinks mysterious traveler knocks afore.
A man is visiting, of age threescore."


(a mnemonic for the digits of pi, expressed as a tribute to the original poem).

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Obviously the greatest one. –  zessx Dec 10 '13 at 14:25

Not a poem, but a quote from one of my favorite books, "We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

" . . . by means of the glass, the electric, the fire-breathing integral to integrate the indefinite equation of the universe. It is for you to place the beneficial yoke of reason round the necks of unknown beings who inhabit other planets-still living, as it may be, in the primitive state known as freedom. If they will not understand that we are bringing them a mathematically infallible happiness, we shall be obliged to force them to be happy."

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On the book "Cyberiad" Stanislaw Lem writes this poem, called "Love and Tensor Algebra". Of course it is translated from polish by some dude, but you'll get the spirit of it. I Love it personally, you can find it here: http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.com/2003/03/love-and-tensor-algebra-stanislaw-lem.html

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Depending on what you are after it might be worth to look into the ancient Indian treaties on mathematics. Much of which where written in verse form.

For example

From infinity is born infinity.
When infinity is taken out of infinity,
only infinity is left over.

From the Vedas, source http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Mathematics_of_the_Vedas

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Life is like math.

Come to:

Add our friendships. . .

Subtract our enemies. . .

Multiply our jubilation. . .

Division our sorrows. . .

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acko.net uses the quote below after which the guy proceeds to explain limits and construction of rational numbers from integers by taking limits and ultimately explains how one can take infinite number of steps to go to infinity and take a single step back to come back home

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

--The restuarant at the end of the universe by Douglas Adams.

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In his poem A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, John Donne metaphorically compares love to a compass (in the geometry sense):

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

This was part of the "Metaphysical poetry" movement of the 17th century, where the point was essentially to use really bizarre metaphors.

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I forget the joke (I always do) - I am sure you could make one up - but the punchline was:

... because the squaw on the Hippopotamus hide is equal to the sons of the squaws on the other two hides.

There seems to be a reference to one version of the joke here.

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If (distant) memory serves, Martin Gardner's version goes something like: "Three [Native American] women are sitting in a row. The woman on the deer skin has a son who weighs 140 pounds. The one on the bear skin has a son weighing 160 pounds. The third, sitting on a hippopotamus skin, weighs 300 pounds. What famous mathematical theorem is illustrated?" –  Andrew D. Hwang Dec 10 '13 at 13:46
@user86418 Which one is it? –  Jeel Shah Dec 16 '13 at 4:13
@gekkostate It's the OP's reference to the Pythagorean Theorem: "The squaw on the Hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws on the other two hides." –  Andrew D. Hwang Dec 16 '13 at 14:19

The Kiss Precise
by Frederick Soddy

For pairs of lips to kiss maybe
Involves no trigonometry.
'Tis not so when four circles kiss
Each one the other three.
To bring this off the four must be
As three in one or one in three.
If one in three, beyond a doubt
Each gets three kisses from without.
If three in one, then is that one
Thrice kissed internally.

Four circles to the kissing come.
The smaller are the benter.
The bend is just the inverse of
The distance from the center.
Though their intrigue left Euclid dumb
There's now no need for rule of thumb.
Since zero bend's a dead straight line
And concave bends have minus sign,
The sum of the squares of all four bends
Is half the square of their sum.

To spy out spherical affairs
An ocular surveyor
Might find the task laborious,
The sphere is much the gayer,
And now besides the pair of pairs
A fifth sphere in the kissing shares.
Yet, signs and zero as before,
For each to kiss the other four
The square of the sum of all five bends
Is thrice the sum of their squares.

See http://jwilson.coe.uga.edu/EMAT6680Su09/Floer/6690/Soddy%20Circles/Soddy%20Circles.html for the geometry that accompanies this!

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Oh god this is terrible. –  Grumpy Parsnip Apr 15 '14 at 0:42

If you work it out, the equation is correct

Integral z squared dz
From one to the cube root of three
Times the cosine
of three pi over 9
equals log of the cube root of e

Found another one here http://blog.drscottfranklin.net/2009/01/13/another-calculus-limerick/

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@NateEldredge ahh, yes, misquoted, it should be e –  CDspace Dec 10 '13 at 15:02

Here's the third stanza of Lewis Carroll's Four Riddles (taken from page 872 of The Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll (Bounty Books, 2004)):

Yet what are all such gaieties to me
Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?

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"Now solve for $x$." –  Joel Reyes Noche Dec 9 '13 at 10:18

A mathematician named Klein

Thought the Möbius band was divine

Said he, "If you glue

Together edges of two,

You'll get a weird bottle like mine".

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Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand has a... well, math-related poem:


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Corollary, by Ian W. Gouldstone

An animated poem about "the atrophy of a theoretical math education".

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You might look at "Worms: Georg Cantor, from Halle Sanatorium, 1884", by Adam Vines, in his book The Coal Life: Poems

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