14 Dec

Math Knowledge and the American Public

Content-Type: text/plain Mime-Version: 1.0 (NeXT Mail 3.3 v118.2) From: Peter Langston <psl> Date: Sat, 14 Dec 96 14:03:05 -0800 To: Fun_People Subject: Math Knowledge and the American Public [For some reason this reminds me of the O.J. Simpson case... -psl] Forwarded-by: <joev@archtop.com> Forwarded-by: garren@teleport.com (Alan Garren) MATH KNOWLEDGE Two mathematicians, Joe and Richard, were having dinner in a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, arguing about the average mathematical knowledge of the American public. Richard claimed that this average was woefully inadequate while Joe maintained that it was surprisingly high. "I'll tell you what," said Richard, "when I get back from the bathroom we'll ask our waitress a simple calculus question. If she gets it right, I'll pick up dinner. If not, you do. Okay?" They agreed, but once he'd left, Joe called the waitress over. "When my friend comes back," he told her, "he's going to ask you a question; you should respond 'one third x cubed' no matter what the question is; got that? There's five bucks in it for you." She happily agreed to the gag. Richard returned from the men's room and called the waitress over. "The food was wonderful," he started, "incidentally, do you know what the integral of x squared is?" The waitress looked startled, then pensive, almost pained. She looked around the room, at her feet, made gurgling noises, (Joe was starting to sweat) and finally said, "um, one third x cubed?" Joe beamed in relief as an astonished Richard paid the check and an irritated waitress muttered under her breath, "...plus a constant."

© 1996 Peter Langston