… arguing about the average mathematical knowledge of the American public. One mathematician
claimed that this average was woefully inadequate, the other maintained that
it was surprisingly high.
“I’ll tell you what,” said the cynic, “ask that waitress a simple math question. If she gets it right, I’ll pick up dinner. If not, you do.” He then excused himself to visit the men’s room, and the other called the waitress over.
“When my friend comes back,” he told her, “I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to respond ‘one third x cubed.’ There’s twenty bucks in it for you.” She agreed.
The cynic returned from the bathroom and called the waitress over. “The food was wonderful, thank you,” the mathematician started. “Incidentally, do you know what the integral of x squared is?”
The waitress looked pensive; almost pained. She looked around the room, at her feet, made gurgling noises, and finally said, “Um, one third x cubed?”
So the cynic paid the check. The waitress wheeled around, walked a few paces away, looked back at the two men, and muttered under her breath, “…plus a constant.”