What do you say to a beautiful mathematician?

"I wish I were your first derivative, so I could lie tangent to your curves."

More humor: e∧x (that is, the mathematical constant "e" raised to the power of "x") went to party. He stood around morosely in a corner. The host came up to him and said "why don't you mix in with the other guests? Maybe that would cheer you up." He replied, "It's no use. If I integrate, I'll still be the same."

Commenters are urged to supply more calculus humor.

One day E^x was walking down the street with his friend the constant. On the opposite side they spotted a differential operator. "Let's go say hello," said E^x. "No way," replied the constant, "if he gets near me I'll disappear!"

E^x thought, well I'm E^x, he can't hurt me. So we crossed the street and introduced himself. "Pleased to meet you," said the operator, "I'm d/dy."
3.4.2007 3:07pm
We should have been "he", of course.
3.4.2007 3:08pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Bah, Salieri beat me with the d/dy joke.
3.4.2007 3:20pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Non-calculus humor:

Q. What's purple and commutes?

A. An Abelian grape.

Q. What do you get when you cross a grape and an elephant?

A. Grape elephant sine theta.

Q. What do you get when you cross a grape and a mountain climber?

A. You can't -- a mountain climber is a scalar.
3.4.2007 3:22pm
Eric Jablow (mail):
An old 'classic':

Q. What's yellow and equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?

A. Zorn's Lemon.

And one that I came up with 20 years ago:

Q. When the bases are loaded, and no one is out, what partial differential equation must the pitcher attempt to solve?

A. The K-DP Equation.
If you know your modern PDE theory, you'll figure it out.
3.4.2007 3:53pm
Amanda (mail) (www):
I suppose I shouldn't point out that there is--has been for quite a while--a Facebook group devoted to this very joke. Current membership: 101,612 members. And they've got t-shirts.
3.4.2007 3:57pm
otto (mail):
The Onion: "Standard deviation not enough for perverted statistician"
3.4.2007 4:09pm
Bruce Lagasse (mail):
One I heard many years ago: What's the integral of d(cabin) over cabin?

A; log cabin (plus, if you insist, a constant)
3.4.2007 4:17pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Log cabin + C ("sea") = houseboat
3.4.2007 4:24pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Merging algebra and Russian grammar:

The Russian grammar teacher is out sick, so they bring in the math teacher as a sub. The lesson for the day is the interrogative pronouns ("who? what?") that correspond to the different cases. The math teacher begins:

Nominative - кто? что?

Genitive - кого? чего?

Dative - кому? -- and then he's stumped. (The correct answer is "чему.") So he goes:

"Call it X.

кого / кому = чего / X

So: X = чего * кому / кого.

Cancel the го, cancel the ко, so:

X = чего * кому / кого = чему!"
3.4.2007 4:29pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Chemistry and physics have better jokes.

I used to have the bumper sticker
Heisenberg may have slept here

3.4.2007 4:33pm
A continuation of the abelian grape joke:
What's purple, commutes, and has a limited number of worshippers?

A finitely venerated abelian grape.
3.4.2007 4:54pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Question: Is it correct to assume that a beautiful mathematician is a geek and would be impressed with these really geeky jokes?

If the answer is yes she is a geek, then you are probably safe, but with any normal/non-geeky girl telling just one of these jokes would be enough to place you permanently inside the "friendship only zone".

I take it you guys here aren't fans of the CW network's "Beauty and The Geek" shows. Many of these jokes have been told by the geeks with the opposite of the intended effect on the beauties.

3.4.2007 5:05pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"Is it correct to assume that a beautiful mathematician is a geek...?"

Well, Is it correct to assume that an X mathematician is a geek? I'd say so.
3.4.2007 5:13pm
DonBoy (mail) (www):
This just reaffirms my long-held belief that one recurrent nerb/geek trait is the confusion of "clever" and "funny".
3.4.2007 5:28pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
Q: What's green and very far away?
A: The lime at infinity.

Q: What's grey and ignored by Alexandre Grothendieck?
A: The irrelephant ideal.

DonBoy is right, puns get extremely old extremely quickly. And math jokes that contain errors or oversimplifications in the math like the derivative one in the original post are even worse. I have been reduced to a single joke, which lives in the family of mathematician-physicist-engineer jokes:

A mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer find themselves in a humorous anecdote much like many others you've likely already heard. The engineer fails to notice this and continues on his way. The physicist notices after a moment and derives some wry pleasure from the fact. The mathematician notices immediately, but finds it to be such a trivial corollary to other such anecdotes that it's hardly funny.

Now leave the math jokes to the mathematicians.
3.4.2007 5:51pm
Justin (mail):
A mathematician walks into a bar.
3.4.2007 6:09pm
After a night at the bars, my buddy said he was going back to his dorm room to finish some calculus homework. I took away his dorm room key. Why? Friends don't let friends drink and derive.
3.4.2007 6:14pm
Byomtov (mail):
Heisenberg is stopped for speeding.

"Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" asks the cop.

"No. But I know exactly where I am."
3.4.2007 6:25pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Man do people hate lawyers. Those lawyer linked from the mathematician-physicist-engineer jokes page are just mean. Though a couple of them were funny.
3.4.2007 6:26pm
Frank Smith:
For an interesting (and humorous) paper on math folk humour, see:

Renteln and Dundes: "Foolproof: A Sampling of Mathematical Folk Humour" in Notices of the AMS, 52:1 (January 2005).
3.4.2007 6:40pm
Forgive that this is chemistry rather than math, but I always liked it:

Two atoms are walking along, and one says to the other "Oh no -- I just lost an electron!" The other asks, "Are you sure?" and he replies "Yes, I'm positive!"

[I'm also an engineer, and arguably a nerdy one.]
3.4.2007 6:45pm
BillV. (mail):

The "Log cabin" joke is from Gravity's Rainbow, if I am not mistaken. Yes... here it is; Page 457.

[integral sign] (1/(cabin)) d (cabin) = log cabin + C = houseboat.

Classic Pynchon. Glad someone mentioned it.
3.4.2007 6:55pm
Israel Silverman (mail):
From a long time back, paraphrased:

Two mathematicians walk into a risque restaurant. Long-time friends, they discuss the lamentable lack of math knowledge in the general population while ogling the ambience.

Presently, one mathematician excuses himself to visit the men's room. The other calls over a waitress. Snapping gum, the waitress asks "Want another drink?"

"No," the mathematician answers, "My friend and I have a bet going. I'll give you $20 if you play along."

"Sure," the waitress says.

"Ok. When he comes back, I'll ask you a question. It doesn't matter what it is. I want you to answer me saying 'x squared over 2."

"Eggs qwared...over to?" the waitress asked.

"Yes. Just say that," the mathematician said.


The second mathematician returned from the men's room and they again began to discuss math. The first one said "You know, maybe it's not as bad as all that. I'll bet you $100 that if I ask the waitress a calculus question she'll know the right answer."

The second mathematician said "You're on!"

They call over the waitress, and the first asks her "Honey, what's the integral of X?"

She pauses for a second, and then says "X squared over two."

Walking back to the kitchen she continues "....Plus C."
3.4.2007 7:08pm
Tom F:
Q: What did the mother say to her little curl?
A: You have no potential.
3.4.2007 7:34pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

Q. What do you get when you cross a grape and a mountain climber?

A. You can't -- a mountain climber is a scalar.

I always preferred:

Q. What do you get if you cross a mosquito and a mountain climber?

A. Nothing. One is a vector and the other is a scalar.

Or how about, a chicken farmer hires an engineer and a physicist and explains to them that he wants them to each design a state of the art chicken coop to maximize the space and effectiveness of the interior. So each one goes their separate ways and come back the next day. The engineer unfurls a perfectly drawn blueprint and and diagrams and charts and lists of necessary equipment. The physicist pulls out a crumpled piece of paper, looks at it and says, "Well, I've got a really simple design, but it only works for spherical chickens."
3.4.2007 7:44pm
part 1:
knock knock.
who's there?
interrupting cow.
interrupting cow w-

part 2: (the nerdy part)
knock knock.
who's there?
interrupting coefficient of friction.
interrupting coefficient o-
3.4.2007 7:55pm
Stating the Obvious:
What do you say to a beautiful mathematician?

"I wish I were your first derivative, so I could lie tangent to your curves."


Am I the only one who finds lying down with your first derivative a tad risque, not to mention illegal in some states...?
3.4.2007 8:49pm
I don't know any calculus jokes, but here's a classic trigonometry joke.
3.4.2007 8:51pm
what do you get when you cross a mountain with an elephant?

absolute value of mountain absolute value of elephant cosine theta.
3.4.2007 8:54pm
Gee, when I studied calculus I thought "Study Hard" meant cracking the books rather than perusing Bikini Calculus:

Hat Tip: Mahalanobis
3.4.2007 9:08pm
TomHynes (mail):
What does a mathematician do for constipation?

He works it out with a pencil.
3.4.2007 9:14pm
Larry M (mail):
Heisenberg is stopped for speeding.

"Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" asks the cop.

"No. But I know exactly where I am."

THAT one is funny. So is the Silverman joke. The others ... as another commenter said, clever, not funny.
3.4.2007 9:42pm
jvarisco (www):
If I was your second derivative...that would make me constant[ly] on your curves!
3.4.2007 9:50pm
Bruce Lagasse wrote:
A; log cabin (plus, if you insist, a constant)
OK, here's a riddle along the same lines.

When the flood was over, Noah let all the animals off the ark and told them to go forth and multiply. Several weeks later a couple of snakes came back and said "Sorry, but we've tried everything and we just can't seem to multiply."

So, Noah immeddiately went to work chopping down trees. After he had enough trees all bucked, he built a big table from the logs. He put the snakes on the table and said "There. Now you can multiply." And lo, the snakes did multiply.

What kind of snakes were they?
3.4.2007 10:08pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
Fub: Adders. Even adders can multiply on log tables.

3.4.2007 10:29pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
"Is it correct to assume that a beautiful mathematician is a geek...?"

I'd like an existence proof first.
3.4.2007 11:26pm
BillV. (mail):

Classic Pynchon. Glad someone mentioned it.

... that is of course if Pynchon coined the "boathouse" joke himself. Anyone know of a prior source?
3.4.2007 11:56pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
I used to have the bumper sticker
Heisenberg may have slept here

On a bright red bumper sticker: "If this sticker is blue, you're driving too fast."
3.5.2007 1:04am
Calculus and alcohol don't mix. Never drink and derive.
3.5.2007 1:17am
PeteRR (mail):
Rene Descartes is flying from Los Angeles to Chicago. At the check-in counter he elected to upgrade from Coach to 1st Class using some of his accumulated frequent flyer miles. Being a seasoned traveller he accepted the various indignities of airport security with aplomb and wended his way to his departure gate. When pre-boarding was called for 1st Class passengers he presented his boarding pass and made his way down the jetway onto the plane and located his seat. While boarding continued for Coach class passengers, the Flight Attendant presented herself before the noted philosopher and inquired of him if he would like a pre-takeoff drink. He replied, "I think not". And Poof!, he disappeared.
3.5.2007 1:28am
Harland Hirst (mail):
I am with the clever/funny bunch, but I did laugh to tears over the trig joke. It just reminds me of any stumped smart-assed kid.
3.5.2007 3:13am
guest (mail):
Q: what's 3.14~ /x?

A: a piece of pi

I'll supply the groan myself.
3.5.2007 4:38am
karrde (mail) (www):
A few more from this site:

Three statisticians go hunting. When they see a rabbit, the first one shoots, missing it on the left. The second one shoots and misses it on the right.
The third one shouts: "We've hit it!"

Math problems? Call 1-800-[(10x)(13i)2]-[sin(xy)/2.362x].

Q: What is the value of the contour integral around Western Europe?
A: Zero.
Q: Why?
A: Because all poles are in Eastern Europe!

I think that such jokes are funny among people who are geeks/nerds, for at least one iteration of each joke.
3.5.2007 8:36am
Truth Seeker:
These are great! How about a new thread of philosopher's jokes?!
3.5.2007 8:49am
speedwell (mail):
Derrida started the trend of philosophy jokes, I thought.

But seriously (or not)... my engineer dad used to tell one of the mathematician jokes above about a constipated engineer who worked it out with a slide rule... which joke years later made me the life of the party at a meeting of oil-n-gas R&D engineers.
3.5.2007 10:21am
Nathan Jones (mail):
A herpetologist grew frustrated while trying to mate two endangered snakes. After months of work she threw up her hands in frustration and was about to give up when one of the snakes said to her: “you could try dimming the lights.” The herpetologist was surprised at the talking snake, but turned down the lights anyway.

A few weeks later, the snakes still had not yet mated and the herpetologist asked them: “I turned down the lights, is there anything else you need?” The second snake said, “Dimming the lights helped, but it still isn’t very romantic – could you put on some good music?” So the herpetologist got a Barry White album from her car and played some sweet soulful tunes near their cage.

A few weeks later, the snakes still had not yet mated and the herpetologist asked: “I turned down the lights AND put on some romantic music, why aren’t you breeding?” The first snake said: “Well, it might seem silly, but back in our native jungle we had a coffee table made of wood that we really liked. If you built a table just like that in our cage, it would probably help.”

So the herpetologist got some logs and built the table and left it in the cage. A few weeks later she came back and there were hundreds of baby snakes. This story just goes to show that: WITH A LOG TABLE EVEN AN ADDER CAN MULTIPLY.
3.5.2007 11:01am
TallDave (mail) (www):
I agree, the Heisenberg jokes were the funniest.
3.5.2007 11:06am
guest (mail):

There are 10 kinds of people in the world--those that understand binary and those that don't.
3.5.2007 11:11am
Mark Field (mail):
No post on math jokes would be complete without a Buffy reference:

"Buffy looks into the main room and discovers Xander, Anya, and Willow lying on the floor head-to-toe forming a triangle. Dawn stands in the middle. All are giggling. Dawn sees Buffy and stops laughing.

Buffy: (storms forward) What is this? I thought I told you to do your homework!

The others gets up from the floor.

Dawn: I was.
Buffy: (folds her arms) Please don't lie to me.
Dawn: I'm not.

Giles, Xander, and Anya move away into the shop.

Willow: We were acting out a geometry problem, 'cause I read this really neat article that said kids learn math better if you, you stimulate their, uh, visual learning pattern. You know, using the right side of the brain instead of just the left?

Buffy still looks stern and unamused.

Willow: (OS) Stuff like that.
Buffy: Uh-huh.
Willow: So we made a triangle with our bodies, and that's when I called Xander obtuse, and he got really grumpy (smiling; Dawn giggles) and then Dawn said we were "acute" triangle, and, well, hilarity ensued.
Buffy: Right. Well, you know what I think? I think maybe Dawn should do her homework at home."
3.5.2007 11:27am
This is easy. To any math-minded female, a good serenade is kryptonite.
3.5.2007 11:28am
Letter to the Economist, some time ago:
   Engineers and scientists will never make as much money as business executives. A rigorous mathematical proof explains why this is true:
      Postulate 1: Knowledge is power.
      Postulate 2: Time is money.
   As every engineer knows,
      Power = Work / Time
   Since Knowledge = Power and Time = Money, then
      Knowledge = Work / Money
   Solving for Money, we get:
      Money = Work / Knowledge
   Thus, as knowledge approaches zero, money approaches infinity regardless of work done.
   Conclusion: The less you know, the more you make (but you probably knew that already).
   Paul Wesel, Boston
3.5.2007 11:43am
Andrew Okun:
Sorry, but one more math joke that no one seems to have offered, a common one with many variations.

A math professor is walking home from MIT through the quiet residential streets of Cambridge, Mass., when he notices something odd at one particular house. Out of one of the windows is curling some nasty-looking smoke. He considers calling the fire department, but in only a few moments the smoke appears to increase alarmingly, so he tries to think of something else. He notices that although the front door is closed, there is a spigot on one side of the yard and a hose on the other. He races over, grabs the hose, runs across the yard and connects it, turns on the water and, holding on to the end of the hose, runs at the door with his shoulder, breaking it in. He puts out the still small fire and saves the house, which surely would have been engulfed if he'd waited for the fire department. After receiving the returning homeowner's gratitude, he continues home.

A week later, walking down a different street on his way home from MIT, he was startled to see the same telltale nasty-looking smoke coming out of another house. Assessing the situation, he noted that the smoke was increasing rapidly, but that in this case, the front door was already open and there was a hose in the yard already connected to its spigot. He raced over, disconnected the hose and carried it to the opposite side of the yard, dropped it, raced to the front door and shut it. He then strolled on home, having reduced the problem to one earlier solved.
3.5.2007 12:28pm
Andrew Okun:
My apologies for the inconsistent verb tenses in that joke I just posted.
3.5.2007 12:30pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
With lines like that, no wonder math dudes can't get a date.
3.5.2007 12:35pm
bfjdmba (mail):
You all might be interested in some statistics humor at
3.5.2007 12:36pm
Rhode Island Lawyer:
Another discipline to laugh at.

A physicist, chemist and economist were all stranded on a deserted island. Suddenly, a waves washes in a wooden pallet containing canned food. The three immediately start talking about how to open the cans.

The chemist says, "Let's mix salt water with some of the naturally occuring materials on the island, and dribble the mixture over the can. The chemical reaction will eventually corrode the metal and we can eat the food."

The physicist pooh poohs this as taking too long and says, "I have an idea. Let's get some long pieces of wood, attach them at one end and using them as a lever squeeze the can until it explodes, giving us access to the food."

The economist dismisses this idea as being wasteful and messy and says, "I have the solution. First, assume we have a can opener. . ."
3.5.2007 2:32pm
R_S (mail):
A biologist, a physicist, and a mathematician are having lunch at a cafe, when they notice a person walking into a house across the street. A few minutes later, they notice two people leaving the house. The biologist says, "you know, I have a theory about what we just witnessed -- I think the first person went in, reproduced, and then came out with his offspring -- that explains what we just saw." The physicist shakes his head. "Your theory is too complicated. Occam's Razor suggests that we look for the simplest theory -- I think it is much more likely that we just failed to properly determine the initial conditions of this problem." A moment later, the mathematician says, "you know, if one more person goes inside of that house, it will be empty."
3.5.2007 5:27pm
R_S (mail):
One more:

A physicist runs down the hall into the office of his friend, the mathematician, shouting "all of these years of experiments have paid off! I have finally shown that A is greater than B!" The mathematician looks up from his papers, and says "so what? That's been known for years." The mathematician then walks over to his white board and draws an elegant proof, showing that A is greater than B.

The physicist looks down at his notes, and says "you know what, I think I mispoke. I meant to say that my experimental data clearly shows that A is LESS than b." The mathematician gets up, walks over to te white board, and says "A less than B? That's even EASIER to prove..."
3.5.2007 5:31pm
A really bad math pun that my math teacher told about 30 years ago about the Pythagorian theorum. Still makes my kids groan.

There was once an Indian chief who had three wives (Squaws). The first squaw sat on a buffalo hide, and she had 2 sons. The second wife sat on a cow hide, and she had 3 sons. The third wife sat on a hippopotamus hide, and she had 5 sons.

The moral of the story:
The sons of the squaw on the hippopotamus equals the sons of the squaws on the other two hides.
3.5.2007 5:38pm
guest (mail):
[integral sign] (1/(cabin republican)) d(cabin republican) = gay republican.
3.5.2007 8:59pm
Bruce Lagasse (mail):
Proof that a ham sandwich is better than complete happiness in life:

1. Everyone agrees that nothing is better than complete happiness in life;

2. A ham sandwich is better than nothing.

(OK, not really calculus . . . .)
3.5.2007 9:41pm
[integral sign] (1/(cabin republican)) d(cabin republican) = gay republican.

Technically, it equals some sort of sea-faring gay republican.
3.6.2007 12:48am
theobromophile (www):
I had a math professor in college who told us a story about getting into trouble for a math comic strip that he wrote. He drew a student doing a calc test. In the comic, the student writes the answer to the question integral e^x dx = e^x + c.

Vice principal called my prof down to the office and started screaming at him for publishing filth and trash and how it was so inappropriate, et cetera et cetera. He was confused and asked her what she meant. She snarked, "You know what you said! I'm not going to repeat it!"

"What? Integral of e to the x dx equals e to the x plus c?"

"No!" (Heavy sigh.) The prudish, blog-friendly version is: a certain function and an anatomical part equals a state of rapture.

His response: "You're sicker than I am."

I have a few frustrated math/physics student responses (similar to "find x") on my site, but have zero idea of how to move them over to some photo-sharing site.... gah!
3.6.2007 6:02am