That’s Mathematics

Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer is well known for his humorous and satirical songs. His periodic table song is still delightful even though I have heard it a thousand times. But this song about mathematics deserves to be better known.

It was written as the theme tune for a children’s educational television show, but not used. This version was sung just after Andrew Wiles had proved Fermat’s Last Theorem (1995) and so he includes a verse in celebration. What I love about the song is its inclusiveness, and the understanding that we all do mathematics every day.


Counting sheep, when you’re trying sleep,
Being fair, when there’s some to share,
Being neat, when you’re folding a sheet.
That’s Mathematics.

When a ball, bounces off of a wall
When you cook, from a recipe book
When you know, how much money you owe
That’s Mathematics.

How much gold, can you hold, in an elephant’s ear?
When its noon, on the moon, then what time is it here?
If you could count for a year…
…would you get to infinity
…or somewhere in that vicinity?

When you choose, how much postage to use.
When you know, what’s the chance it will snow.
When you bet, and you end up in debt.
Oh try as you may you just can’t get away from Mathematics.

Andrew Wiles gently smiles, does his thing and voila.
QED, we agree, and we all shout ‘hurrah!’
As he confirms what Fermat
…Jotted down in that margin
…Which could have used with some enlargin’

Tap your feet, keeping time to the beat,
Of a song, while your singing along,
Harmonise, with the rest of the guys…
Oh yes, try as you may you just can’t get away from Mathematics

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