a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Refund (1938)
Fritz Karinthy (original) / Percival Wilde (English Adaptation)

A former student demands that his tuition be refunded because he feels his education was worthless, but loses his bid when he is tricked by the mathematics master.

This entry refers to the 1938 adaptation by Percival Wilde, but I know little about the Hungarian original by Karinthy.

Thanks to Vijay Fafat for suggesting it.

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

The drama is about disgruntled former school student who claims the school did not teach him anything or prepare him for life in the real world, thence entitling him to a full refund of tuition. The play then uses the Mathematics teacher to turn the tables on him through 2 Math questions: one easy and one hard. The easy question? "If we represent the speed of light by x, and the distance of the star Sirius from the sun by y, what is the circumference of a one-hundred-and-nine-sided regular polyhedron whose surface area coincides with that of the hip-pocket of a State railway employee whose wife has been deceiving him for two years and eleven months with a regimental sergeant-major of hussars?" The correct answer? "two thousand six hundred and twenty-eight litres, and not twenty-nine.". The play then does a pirouette on the hard question (which reminded me of the third wish in the Deal-with-the-Devil tales)

The "Math content" here is, of course, questionable. The ability to do correct addition in the end reminded me of the woman whose daughter I once tutored in business mathematics. She told me that for the life of her, she couldn't figure out what good Math was in daily life. After my failed attempt to explain to her how her daughter's education was giving her an analytical thought process, I ended up giving her the examples of checking grocery bills, estimating driving times to destinations and evaluating appropriate tip amounts. The final denouement in this drama was in a similar vein.

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Works Similar to Refund
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Art Thou Mathematics? by Charles Mobbs
  2. Those Who Can, Do by Bob Kurosaka
  3. Arithmetic Town / Arithmetic by Todd McEwen
  4. The Unwilling Professor by Arthur Porges
  5. Hamlet and Pfister Forms - A Tragedy in Four Acts by Jan Minac
  6. Say Wen by Ellis Parker Butler
  7. A Matter of Geometry by Ared White
  8. The Triangular House [La Casa Triangular] by Ramon Gomez de la Serna
  9. The Papers of A.J. Wentworth, B.A. by Humphry Francis Ellis
  10. The Mirror Has Two Faces by Barbra Streisand (director) / Richard LaGravenese (Writer)
Ratings for Refund:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
1.67/5 (3 votes)
Literary Quality:
3.33/5 (3 votes)

MotifMath Education,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)