Attack of the Mathematical Zombies: Five excuses that need a bullet to the head

"Where are they all coming from?" said the first, cocking the shotgun.

"I don't know," said the second, "but I hope you're a good shot."

"We haven't covered this yet."

The first zombie lumbered into view, only instead of mindlessly saying "brains!", it mindlessly said "We haven't covered this yet."

"Well, that's a rubbish excuse," said the first, "isn't it? Whose responsibility is it to make sure you go into the zombie exam prepared? It's your responsibility, zombie. You've been doing past papers. You should have flagged up anything that didn't seem familiar, and looked it up yourself. Take some sodding responsiblity." Bang.

"Good shot," said the second. "Although there's one over there saying 'I was away when we covered this.'"


"My teacher didn't explain this very well."

"For heaven's sake," said the first. "Always someone else's fault, isn't it? Don't you have a tongue in your head? Did you get to the end of class and say 'well, that's that, then. I didn't understand it, but it's someone else's fault, so I don't need to bother trying to pick it back up'? Did you think it was magically going to make sense to you without reading up on it or asking anyone questions?" Bang.

"Got him!" said the second. "Watch out for the one complaining about the teacher's accent!" Bang. "And the one who says the teacher can't control the class." Bang, bang.

"That one needed two bullets," explained the first. "As if the zombie has no responsibility for zombie behaviour."

"It's the way they word the questions."

"Is it now?" asked the first, rhetorically. "Is it really? Honestly? You go back and write a better question then. Something that's clear enough to be unambiguous, but still leave an element of puzzle. I'll skulk here and wait."

"Don't wait too long," said the second.

"Oh, you're right." Bang.

"I don't like [topic]."

"Diddums." Bang. "I don't like having to reload this rifle every time another whining zombie shows up with a whiney excuse going whine whine whine, but do you catch me complaining about it?"

"Yes," said the second.

The first paused. "Well, yes, you do. But I also do something about it."

"One over there saying 'I hoped this topic wouldn't come up.'"


"I had it right, but I crossed it out."

"Why would you do something so daft? Why, for the love of God? Is no answer somehow going to get you more points than a wrong answer? I genuinely don't understand why you'd cross something out unless you had a better idea." Bang.

"There's one saying they spent too long on the first question and ran out of time."


The first surveyed the landscape and the remains of the zombies, admiring the destruction. He cleared his throat. "Now, let that be a lesson," he said.


Colin is a Weymouth maths tutor, author of several Maths For Dummies books and A-level maths guides. He started Flying Colours Maths in 2008. He lives with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.


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