Useful Math

This comic strip is an extract from a series of comics entitled “What we should have been taught in our senior year of high school,” by



  • Teacher: “So instead of calculus, which 99% of you will never use after high school, today we’re going to learn the most complicated math you’ll ever have to do as a grownup. Please refer to figure A on these handouts.”
  • Figure A:
  • Man A: “I had a main course, two drinks, and one-sixth of the appetizer we shared. Here’s some cash.”
  • Man B: “Ok, who ordered three Mongolian horsewiches? Also I only have a debit card.”
  • Man C: “Cindy had some of my fries, so make sure to deduct that from what I owe.”
  • Man D: “Everyone else had two glasses of wine but I had sixteen. Here’s some cash.”
  • Man E: “I think the waitress farted near our table so I’m only tipping 8%.”
  • Instructions: “Solve for X, where X is the amount of money you have to pitch in so you can go home.”


  • Calculus: (n.) /ˈkæl.kjʊ.ləs/a high level of math; usually the most challenging level high school students can take.
  • Appetizer: (n.) /ˈæpɪtaɪzər/a type of food that arrives before the main course and is usually shared by everyone at the table in small portions.
  • Mongolian horsewiches: (n. pl.) not a real food item! This fake food item is making fun of fancy or ethnic sounding food items on menus at trendy restaurants. It would be very unlikely to find actual horse meat sandwiches on an American restaurant menu.
  • Deduct: (v.) /dɪˈdʌkt/ to subtract or take away.
  • Owe: (v.) /əʊ/ to be in someone’s debt. To agree that a specific amount will be paid in the future.
  • To tip (v.) /tɪp/ to give an extra amount of money to a driver, someone working in a restaurant, etc to thank them
  • To pitch in (informal v.) /pɪtʃ/ to contribute either with work or money to help a group


  • This comic is making fun of the fact that although the subject Calculus is required for many high school students to take, it would be more practical for them to learn math skills they are likely to use in the future. In this example, six adults are trying to fairly split up a bill at a restaurant.
  • This cartoon is also making fun of the fact that many adults don’t think ahead when dining out in groups and forget to bring cash. They will also sometimes forget about some of the food or drink items they ordered, making it difficult for everyone else to figure out who owes what.
  • Often times one person will order a lot more (or more expensive items), making it less likely for the group to want to simply divide up the bill into equal portions.

Cultural Notes

  • In North America, each person usually order dishes for themselves (only appetizers are shared), which is very different from certain cultures where dishes are ordered for the whole table (like in China for example). It is also usually expected that everyone will pay for what they have eaten (unless if this has been mentioned otherwise beforehand or that you are being invited).
  • Many restaurants require that groups over a certain number of people are billed together. This can make dining out in large groups difficult, especially if not everyone has cash to pay with. Another thing to keep in mind when dining out in a group, is that often times the restaurant will include a flat rate of “18% gratuity”, meaning a tip, for large groups. It is not necessary to tip more than the included gratuity, but make sure to look for it on the bill!

NB: I received this entry by email from a reader. Thanks for your contribution! 🙂

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