Republic of Mathematics blog

A clutch of mathematical Haiku

Posted by: Gary Ernest Davis on: April 5, 2011

I’m hoping that teachers of mathematics, and their students, will be inspired to write a few Haiku describing life in the mathematical world.

Inspired by the following excellent (non mathematical) Haiku of Colin T. Graham (@ColinTGraham):

Occluding stratus,

Trees shivering in the wind.

And yet, there is green.

I decided to chance my arm at a mathematically-oriented Haiku:

Statistics in Spring.

Finding goodness of a fit,

Chi-squared small, good!

It caught the attention of Dime Arale (@Norii_xD) who re-tweeted it.

I looked around to see if there were examples of mathematical Haiku on the Web, and perhaps even a genre of mathematical Haiku.

To my surprise I found quite a few examples.

Here’s a clever bunch from Damiel Matthews: Mathematical_Haiku_Daniel_Matthews_2004

Here are some focussing on programming, from the site of Tim Davis:

Floating in number,

result of add off by eps :

bit of summer err.


Variant (2010):

Floating in number,

An adder is off by eps :

bit of summer err.


Etrees in autumn,

elm and yew leaves are falling :

L and U fill-in.


Two coders at sea,

for pair programming extreme ;

C shanties they sing.


A summer blessing :

May descendents multiply,

non-transitive life.


Land-lubbers set sail,

C coding in mexFunction :

MATLUBbers at C.


Here’s another bunch in Haiku style by J. L. Alperin, reflecting on a mathematical life:

Referee’s Report

Beautiful theorem

The basic lemma is false

Reject the paper


Oral Exam

Questions like arrows

I give proofs, like swatting flies

Then smiles, all around


Fermat’s Last Theorem

A marginal note

Enigma for centuries

A theorem of Wiles



Eighteen families

Twenty-six sporadic groups

All the simple ones

Typically a Haikai verse (plural Haiku) consists of 3 phrases, with 5, 7, and 5 sound units (mora) repectively. Haiku often contain a seasonal reference, and a cutting word that contrasts two situations.

Commonly, English language Haiku form has the following characteristics:

  • Use of three (or fewer) lines of 17 or fewer syllables;
  • Use of a season word (kigo);
  • Use of a cut (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) paralleling the Japanese use of kireji, to implicitly contrast and compare two events, images, or situations.

If you have a mathematically-oriented Haiku you would like to share, please add it to the comments.

5 Responses to "A clutch of mathematical Haiku"

This post is about
mathematical haikus
counting syllables


How about some limericks? My fav:

‘Tis frequent desire of mine,
A new value of pi to define
I would fix it at 3,
For it’s easier you see,
Than 3.14159.

(I never was into haiku.)

Achh! Bon, it is, as you say, a Limerick – different country, different form.

How to translate it to Haiku?

How about:

My desire for pi,
Change 3.142,
To easy 3!

Oh no! I’ve created a monster!
Thanks for the mention, Gary. Glad it inspired something….

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