Real Mathematics – Algorithm #7

How to fail your math test algorithm (H.T.F.Y.M.T.A.)

The late 90s…

At last, there is a computer at home. Now a new battle emerged between Steve and his brothers: “whose turn it is for the computer?”. Thanks to his high grades at school, Steve won this battle easily. After his victory, Steve started to crush zombies in Carmageddon, won the Champions League in Fifa 98, and did such things in Duke Nukem which I can only tell you face to face over a cup of latte.

Steve’s computer game madness went berserk after he met with a football simulation game called Championship Manager. On top of all these games, at least a few days a week, Steve continued to play football&basketball with his friends. A disaster was waiting for him at the end of this road. How didn’t he foresee this?! He was about to fail all his tests in school!

The first warning was the math test. There was less than a day left for the test. Steve should have studied, but he developed some habits since he had a computer. Now, instead of studying, he had a various number of chances to waste time:

1.Staying at home

When Steve decided to stay home, he would get stuck to his computer. Anyone can guess that he was not using his pc for his school. He was just playing one of the following games:
a. Fifa
b. Carmageddon
c. Championship Manager

2.Going out

Whenever Steve went out, he was not going to the library to study:

a. Chase any ball (football or basketball)
b. Behave like a bum with your friends (a.k.a. meet with your friends and do absolutely nothing productive)

Graph of H.T.F.Y.M.T.A.

In the previous posts, I mentioned what graphs are and how they can be useful in certain situations. In Steve’s situation, using graphs can be very helpful to understand what is going on. Since Steve chooses not to study for his math test, his decisions will lead him to fail the test:

What does the graph tell us?

In the graph above, lines represent Steve’s choices, and dots represent at what state he is in after his choices. The graph tells us two certain things: Steve decides not to study and eventually he fails the math test.

This is why the lines that show Steve’s choices have directions.

During making choices, some steps cannot be skipped. For example, in order to play Fifa, Steve first should sit beside his computer, and to do that, he first should decide to stay home.

Let’s assume that Steve’s choices are like the following:

Stay home -> Turn on the pc -> Play Fifa.

In such a situation, since Steve has limited time before the test, he cannot play Fifa and then return and study for the test. After his decisions, there is no other country than “fail-town”.

Another thing the graph tells us is that Steve cannot go back after making a decision. Mathematicians call these kinds of graphs as “acyclic/chain digraphs”.


Some Information

Acyclic Digraphs

An acyclic digraph does not have a cycle. In other words, once you start moving on an acyclic digraph, you can never go back to the point you previously were at.

An acyclic (finite) digraph has at least one “source” and at least one “sink”.

A point is called “source” if it has no lines leading into it from any other point(s). A point is called “sink” if there are no edges from that point to any other point(s). In the graph of Steve, “don’t study” is the source, and “Result: F for fail” is the sink.


One wonders…

We all use acyclic digraphs during our daily lives. To show an example, I will use Steve’s life once again.

Every school day, Steve takes a shower as soon as he wakes up and gets ready for school. His steps are more or less like the following:

Wake up

Get into the shower

Brush teeth after shower

Get dressed

(Steve’s school uniform consists of pants, shirt, tie, and a vest.)

Q: Draw the graph that shows the way Steve gets ready for school.

Ps. After the shower, Steve must complete his tasks in the right direction. For example, he cannot put on his boxer before pants, can he?!

M. Serkan Kalaycıoğlu

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