Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Theory of computation jokes

I encouraged my students to write jokes (about the course subject matter!) on the back cover of the midterm and final exams. (Writing a joke was worth 1 point of extra credit.)

I then foolishly didn't copy these jokes into my permanent lecture notes! I chalk this up to my first-year teaching experience; I'll not make such a grievous error again.

I only remember a few, usually the GROAN-inducing ones; so here, with no attribution, I share them with you below.

How much does an automaton weigh? An automaTON.
This one is great because (1) I told students they'd get extra-extra credit if they wrote puns, and (2) automata are theoretical and thus have no weight. I enjoyed it on every level.
Q: What is an NFA's favorite whale-themed book or movie? (a) Moby Dick (b) Free Willy (c) Bluefin 
A: Free Willy!
This one reminds me of the mental anguish of writing all the multiple-choice clicker questions for in-class quizzes, plus it's about marine mammals. Win-win, all around.
Finite automata are like life. You might not always know where you're going, but you'll experience acceptance, rejection, and an end.
This one is mathematically incorrect: you can only experience acceptance XOR rejection. Otherwise I'm okay with students venting existential dread by using theory of computation terminology.

I liked the "write a joke on the final for 1 point of extra credit" model. I found that it lightened the mood of studying, and I was amused --- but ultimately not surprised --- to find that study groups were brainstorming jokes ahead of time. (I really, really like my job.)

This post's theme word is prolegomenon, "a critical, introductory discussion, esp. in an intro to a text." More puns in prolegomenons, I always say.

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