Posted by: sclee09 | October 26, 2008

Are there really any funny math jokes?

I found this article that talks a bit about mathematical folk humor. Essentially, there seem to be two types of math jokes: jokes about mathematics and jokes about mathematicians. In addition to eight variations of the “What’s purple and commutes?” (A: an abelian grape) joke that Kate presented in class, Renteln and Dundes give many more examples. I’ll highlight some of my favorites:

Q: What do you call a young eigensheep?
A: A lamb, duh!

Q: What do you get if you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?
A: You can’t cross a vector with a scalar.

Q: Why can’t you grow wheat in Z/6Z?
A: It’s not a field.

A physicist and a mathematician are sitting in a faculty lounge. Suddenly, the coffee machine catches on fire. The physicist grabs a bucket and leaps toward the sink, fills the bucket with water, and puts out the fire. Second day, the same two sit in the same lounge. Again he coffee machine catches on fire. This time, the mathematician stands up, gets a bucket, and hands the bucket to the physicist, thus reducing the problem to a previously solved one.

Just a few more (not in the article but heard or read previously):

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin Pi.

Old mathematicians never die. They just lose some of their functions.

Q: What does a mathematician present to his fiancee when he wants to propose?
A: A polynomial ring!

Q: Why do you rarely find mathematicians spending time at the beach?
A: Because they have sine and cosine to get a tan and don’t need the sun!

So, are there really any funny math jokes? I’ll let you decide…



  1. Wow, that’s a long article. It does remind me of one of my favourites:

    What’s the sound a drowning analytic number theorist?

    Answer: Log-log-log-log…

    Needless to say, there are a lot of logs in analytic number theory. I like it because I’m a number theorist.

    My all time favourite though (this one is macabre):

    How many topologists does it take to tile a bathroom floor?

    I’ll put off the answer for a moment and tell you why I like this joke. I like it because it prompts most mathematicians to really think hard for a while, since it seems so temptingly tractable. What would a topologist do with a tiling (tilings are a mathematical topic and topologists are mathematicians that don’t usually deal with tilings, but there are some relationships)?

    But the answer is…

    Only one, but you have to slice him thin enough.

  2. Reminds me of my favorite math pick up line. It starts out “I wish I was your problem set”. It’s a bit risque so I’ll let you google for the answer.

  3. Of the same ilk, I heard this in the Science Center yesterday spoken by a Math 25-er to a fellow Math 25-er: “I’ll take you to your limit if you show me your end behavior.”

  4. What is the square root of sixty-nine?
    8 something…

  5. Here’s one of my favorites:

    Two mathematicians are in a bar. The first one says to the second that the average person knows very little about basic mathematics. The second one disagrees, and claims that most people can cope with a reasonable amount of math.

    The first mathematician goes off to the washroom, and in his absence the second calls over the waitress. He tells her that in a few minutes, after his friend has returned, he will call her over and ask her a question. All she has to do is answer “one third x cubed.”

    She repeats “one thir — dex cue”?
    He repeats “one third x cubed”.
    She asks, “one thir dex cuebd?”
    “Yes, that’s right,” he says.

    So she agrees, and goes off mumbling to herself, “one thir dex cuebd…”.

    The first guy returns and the second proposes a bet to prove his point, that most people do know something about basic math. He says he will ask the blonde waitress an integral, and the first laughingly agrees. The second man calls over the waitress and asks “what is the integral of x squared?”.

    The waitress says “one third x cubed” and while walking away, turns back and says over her shoulder “plus a constant!”

  6. These are very funny jokes. Here’s one I heard. There’s a Physicist, a Biologist, and a Mathematician having drinks in a cafe and there is an abandoned building across the street. They all have a clear view of the building through the window across from them. They witness two people walk in the vacant building but they observe three people walk out a few minutes later. The Physicist declares, “That’s a mathematical anomaly!” The Biolgist declares, “That’s procreation!”. The Mathematician declares, “If one more person walks in the building, it will be empty!”

  7. I like it because it prompts most mathematicians to really think hard for a while, since it seems so temptingly tractable.

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