A Math Joke

Written 24 April 1995

Two mathematicians were eating lunch at a restaurant. Throughout the meal, they had been arguing about the state of math education in the US; the first thought that no-one was learning anything, while the second thought that things weren't quite as bad as all that. Finally, the first mathematician said, "OK, why don't you put your money where your mouth is? When the waitress comes with the check, I'll ask her a simple algebra question. If she gets it right, I'll pay for both our lunches; if not, you will." To this the second mathematician readily assented.

Finally, the meal was over, and the waitress brought over the check. The first mathematician said to her, "Would you mind settling a bet for us? Could you tell us what a plus b quantity squared is?" "Hmm...(a+b)2...that's an algebra question, right...let's see...it's a squared plus b squared!" As the second mathematician reached for the check, she continued, "That would be in a field of characteristic two, of course."

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