I don’t know about you but I’m not sure this math teacher’s qualifications measure up.
I’m pulling the honesty card here. For me, math is humbling. Numbers appear to be dazzlingly simple. They are not. Ask my live-in tutor/guru/scholar, a mathematician who knows my every calculation is beset with error. He’d rather teach a giraffe to sing.
Unfortunately, life requires math.
If it’s zero degrees outside today
and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow,
how cold is it going to be?
I love the Weather Channel, don’t you?
Storm Nemo ignited an urge to purge my bookshelves. My library’s book sale will benefit and I’ll have lots more room for cookbooks.
I came across plenty of books I forgot I had. Like The Man Who Counted ~ A Collection of Mathematical Adventures by Malba Tahan. It’s about the adventures of a 13th-century Persian mathematician named Beremiz Samir who travels the world in search of math, and along the way, settles disputes, gives wise advice, and overcomes danger. Think: A Thousand and One Nights-meets-math on an exotic cultural journey.
Beremiz is a natural math whiz. As a young shepard in Persia, he learns to count flocks of sheep at a glance. Soon he can count flocks of birds and swarms of bees and clusters of fruit.
Beremiz enters a shop in Baghdad called Four Fours where an elegant bright blue turban catches his eye. Everything inside, including the turban, costs four dinars, a mad extravagance for a poor shepard.
Four Fours, Beremiz announces ~ such a coincidence, the name of this business and the wonders of calculus. (I’m thinking perfume! caftan! bracelet!) So he begins to think of all the ways to use the number four. Using four fours, he says, you can get to any number whatsoever.
How does he do it?
Here’s how Beremiz used four fours to make zero.
44-44 = 0
And here’s how he made the number 8:
4 + 4 + 4 – 4
The merchant is quite impressed and gives Beremiz the turban as a gift. Although Beremiz is over the moon about it, he notices that it does have one small defect ~ it’s form is not strictly geometric ~ and that’s the seamless segue into his next story about the multiple beauties of geometry. And so it goes.
Ah, Math. We have the eyes to see it, the intelligence to understand it, and the spirit to wonder at it. Yet it doesn’t hold my interest the way words do. But Beremiz, being Beremiz, doesn’t stop with zero or eight. He isn’t wired that way. Are you like that, bursting with arithmetical curiosity? Do you know/wonder how he used four fours to make the numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10?
I challenge you, Readers, to make any of the numbers above using only four fours. The prize for the first correct answer? Your very own copy of The Man Who Counted.
Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things. — J. H. Poincare