How to write a good math question.

“I love calculating these kinds of things. It’s not that I love doing the math. I do a lot of math but I don’t really like doing math for it’s own sake. What I love is that it let’s you take some things that you know and just by moving some symbols around on a piece of paper, find something that you didn’t know that’s very surprising.”

Randall Munroe*, former NASA roboticist, now magical web-cartoonist and creator of, answers what would happen if you hit a baseball travelling at 90% of the speed of light. And, at 3:07, “If all digital data were stored on punch cards, how big would Google’s data warehouse be?” His description of how he calculated the answer to the Google questions is a great example of what a good question can get you to do.

Good questions are fun questions. I’d love to see something like these on a final exam.

*It makes me smile to see that Munroe has more than 20,000 followers and hasn’t sent a single tweet.

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