Via MetaFilter:

I thought this was wonderfully clever. Standard limerick form: first, second, and fifth lines are longer, and similar in rhyme and meter; third and fourth lines are shorter, and similar in rhyme and meter. The toughest part is figuring out how the first and last lines rhyme.

Limerick

Mike? I know it’s like asking someone to explain the punchline of a joke, but I don’t get this limerick. Could you solve the equation and show your work?

Mathematically Challenged,

Joanna

As an example: one line might be, “divided by seven,” and the next might begin, “plus. . .”

Thanks, Professor Edwards.

Okay, I see how two lines rhyme: “divided by seven” and “five times eleven” but that’s as far as I’m getting and I don’t know if I wanna try any harder.

Bradley’s got it: the third and fourth lines are

and, well, OK, I’ll point out that a synonym for 20 rhymes with “four,” which might indicate that there are other synonyms in the first line, as well — like for 144 and 12.

(And for the last line: what’s a one-syllable word for ‘equals’?)

Score! Gross! Dozen!

line one: one dozen, one gross and one score

line two: plus three times the square root of four

line three: divided by seven

line four: plus five times eleven

line five: equals 9 squared and no more!

That must be it! Right?!?!?! It works, I think.

Absolutely right on target, my friend. Perhaps rhythm’s a matter of personal taste — I’m kinda partial to

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.

So yeah, you totally got it. I so totally love the idea of math limericks, and I want to invent some, but I have no idea whatsoever where I’d begin. Does that take a sudoku kind of brain?

What do you think, Joanna?

Quote the Howard: “Not a bit more. . . .”

Seriously, I’m impressed with both of you–it’s like you’re bilingual, writing poems with words and numbers.

I didn’t even try to get the meter. I was just trying to make sense of the dang thing. If it takes a sodoku brain to make these things up, don’t call me Will Shortz or however he spells his name. It was quite exciting to get it though. I felt smart!

I didn’t get the one syllable for equals part until now.

You get humility points, Brad.

The really impressive thing is that it does, of course, equate the way it says it does. I could probably string together numbers and mathematical operators into euphonious phrases, but to actually have it be

correct…wow.