Liberal Arts Blog — My Magic Number is 42, My Magic Shape is the Horizontally-Oriented Hexagon, What are yours? Why?

Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, and Numbers Day

Today’s topic — My Magic Number is 42, My Magic Shape is the Horizontally-Oriented Hexagon, What are yours? Why?

God, I love triangles. And, wow, circles are totally awesome. What number iscooler than three? I’m obsessed with threes. Rounding pi is three. And so is “e.” But on my jersey, put the number 42. Why? Because it summarizes my holistic educational fantasy. And put it at the center of a hexagon oriented horizontally. And arrayed around it, one on each of the six sides the number 7. Why? The number 42 summarizes my life work as a student and a teacher: seven tools, seven virtues, seven joys, seven disciplines, seven issues, and seven goals. Yes, I am a huge fan of Thoreau’s injunction to “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” But also a fan of Einstein’s rejoinder “Simple, but not too simple.” Education is complicated and 42 is as simple as it gets. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

WHY THE HEXAGON MUST BE ARRAYED HORIZONTALLY — the top half and the bottom half

1. The three-sided top half is devoted to education, or the liberal arts in general — the seven tools (the thematic journal, the thematic matrix, the before and after test…), the seven joys (math, literature, science,…), the seven virtues (gratitude, kindness, courage….).

2. The three-sided bottom half is devoted to thinking citizenship (aka civic education) — the seven disciplines (economics, ethics, history….), the seven issues (foreign policy, economic policy, health policy…), the seven goals (justice, freedom, peace….)

3. So my favorite number three does play an important role in all this after all. Each half has three sides. Other magic numbers in supporting roles: 2 (two halves) and 7 (dimensions of each side.)


1. I just learned that Jackie Robinson’s Jersey number was 42! It was retired in 1997. My “jersey” comment above was written before I found this out! Sorry, Jackie!

2. A film was made with the title “42” in 2013 starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford.

3. This is why I love writing “triptychs” (that is daily posts with three parts requiring a certain amount of research which always turns up at least one cool surprise).


1. When Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (1979) asked the “ultimate question” (that is, the meaning of life) his answer was, you can’t make this up, “42.”

2. And if you go to the Wikipedia page on the number 42, you will discover that its special mathematical attributes and cultural references are almost infinite. Don’t miss it.

3. Examples: 42 lines per page in the Gutenberg bible, 42 laws of cricket, 42 illustrations in Alice and Wonderland, in Chinese text messages “42” means yes, there were 42 books in the core library of Alexandria, 42 gallons in a barrel of oil……

NB: So what number would you put on your jersey? Why?


42 (film)

42 (number)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (novel)

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


So what are your personal favorite magic numbers? What do they stand for? Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.