Saturday, January 26, 2008

Times Table

The multiplication table we memorized in Mrs Good's third-grade class has a mere 36 entries (that is if one discounts commutative entries like 4x5 = 5x4, and ignores the ones and tens columns).

Please don't tell me about your overzealous pedagogue who made you learn a 12x12 table. It wasn't your fault you had a sadistic teacher, nor was it your place as a darling eight-year-old to be informing her that she was a nincompoop. But it's high time we all joined hands and raised our voices in harmony: "Learning a 12x12 table is just plain stupid! For cryin' out loud, the world we live in is populated primarily with ten-fingered people." So unless you have six fingers on each hand, spare me.

So (setting all that aside and getting back to the subject of this post) there are a scant 36 entries in the multiplication table. In fact, if we further discount the entries that have a common set of prime factors (viz: 2x6 = 3x4 = 12; 2x8 = 4x4 = 16; 2x9 = 3x6 = 18; 3x8 = 4x6 = 24 and 4x9 = 6x6 = 36), there are actually only 31 distinct entries.

"So what's the point of all this?" you inquire.

"Well, I'm glad you asked," I reply.

Today I'm 7x8. I have just four more entries to go: 63, 64, 72 and (hopefully) 81.

Long gone are the days when, if asked my age, I could hold up my tiny hand and grinningly answer, "This many." Well actually, I suppose I could do that, but you'd have to be verrrry patient, and watch me open and close my little fist twelve times. And even if you were just brimming with idle time to squander on viewing digital genuflection, there'd still be no guarantee my arthritic mitt would make it through the full count.

Or maybe I could just get five of my friends to help me. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, we could impishly smile and render our non-verbal reply. But alas, the loss of spontaneity and the inquisitor's bother of multiplying the number of hands by five would likely drain most of the cuteness out of our response. And (not to accuse you, but) I suspect a few of you cynics out there might even think the whole thing was staged.

So I guess hand-gesturing is out (at least as relates to the question of my age). From here on, when people ask me, "How old are you?" it's probably best just to stick with the simple reply: "That's none of your damned business!"

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Dad! Times Tables may be timely but a good wit from above is timeless. Family Legacies like that are well appreciated, at least by this member of the next generation.

Jerry said...

Happy Birthday brother-in-law.

By the way, you are now tagged.

LadyBugCrossing said...

That's a lot of fingers!

Happy birthday!
xo
LBC

Barbara said...

Happy 56th Birthday, BOB!

Hula Doula said...

Happy 7x8 Birthday Bob!

joyce said...

Hey, you forgot to mention that this is our golden trade year---you are the age of the year I was born, and I will soon turn the age of the year you were born !!! Now that's special and a once in a lifetime event. Love you ! And you must have liked your apple pie instead of birthday cake, 'cause its all gone !