One of my favorite mathematics jokes

Started by Rick Lyons 2 years ago6 replieslatest reply 2 years ago366 views

Two captains of industry, Arthur and George, were in a restaurant discussing the state of educational standards, particularly in the field of mathematics. Arthur was convinced they were slipping badly, and that your average college student was completely mathematically illiterate. George, on the other hand, was confident that any student would at least know the basics of calculus.

"I bet you a hundred bucks," said Arthur, "that if you were to ask a random college student a basic question in calculus, he wouldn't understand the question, let alone furnish you with an answer."

"I'll think about that," said George. "Not sure whether to take you up on your bet or not, but I reckon you'd be wrong."

Arthur slipped off to the mens' room at that point, and while he was gone, George called over the waitress Jody. (He knew that was her name because it was written on a badge pinned to her uniform. This appears to be a custom in certain chain diners.)

"I'd like you to help settle a wager between me and my colleague," he said. "When he comes back, I'm going to call you over, and ask you a question, to which you are to answer: one third x cubed."

"Wuntur dex cue?"

"One third x cubed."

"One thurrd ex cuebd."

"That's it, one third x cubed."

"One third ... x cubed."

"That's it, perfect. There's a good tip in it for you."

Arthur returned. George said, "Yes, I think I will take you up on it. A hundred bucks says our waitress can answer such a question. Hey, Jody! What's the indefinite integral of x squared with respect to x?"

"One third x cubed," replied Jody, dutifully.

"You see?" said George, pocketing Arthur's hundred.

As Jody turned away, she called back over her shoulder, "Plus a constant."

George ruefully took Arthur's hundred back out of his pocket and dropped it onto the table.

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Reply by omersayliFebruary 1, 2022


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Reply by jms_nhFebruary 1, 2022

I must be dense, I get why it's funny, but I don't get the last sentence.

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Reply by paulob160February 1, 2022

George was sloppy when he supposedly "primed" Jody. He didn't mention the constant of integration. But he got his comeuppance when Jody threw in the "plus a constant" as she wandered off. Arthur was right and Jody got her revenge in a graceful way for being patronised.

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Reply by CharlieRaderFebruary 1, 2022

It took me a while to understand that the hundred George took out of his pocket, ruefully, was Jody's tip.

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Reply by jms_nhFebruary 1, 2022
but why was Arthur right?
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Reply by kazFebruary 1, 2022

Nice one. Seems related to Einstein's story:


Oh, this question is so easy that even my chauffeur can answer it!’