Counting on my fingers. No computer!

Not everyone is an Euler (Leonhard Euler, Swiss Mathematician, 1707-1783) or a Gauss (Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, German Mathematician, 1777-1855).

I, for example, still fall into a deep pit when I approach certain areas of the multiplication table. I need to stay away from 7 x 8, for example, but this is not always possible.

It’s my own secret insecurity (until I just posted my confession). Anyone young enough to wear pants falling off their backside may not be as troubled by weaknesses in sums or the ‘times tables.’ After all, there’s a calculator for that.  There’s an app for that.

I am working on a problem right now that I’m attempting with only a pen, paper, and a calculator for the addition operations. It is the first problem posed on the website, Project Euler. net.

The problem asks what is the sum of all numbers divisible by 3 and 5,  up to but not including 1,000.

There’s a perhaps-apocryphal story about the schoolboy Gauss that places him in a math class. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

The teacher told the class to add all the integers from 1 to 100. Gauss took less than a minute to compute the sum and then put his pencil down. The teacher was, I suppose, making ‘busy work’ for the class while he worked on other things, so he noticed Gauss’ gesture of finality at once. He looked at Gauss’s answer – correct! Gauss had paired all the number from 1 to 100 with corresponding numbers 100 to 1.  Each pair yielded the same sum: 101. There were 50 such sums. Multiplying 50 times 101 gave the product: 5050.

Done and done!

In real life, I can’t stand people who do things like that. They sit back in their chair while the rest of the class grinds away at sums. They beam with confidence – oh, how I wish I could give the young Gauss a smack right now!

But I digress. I’m working on the Project Euler problem and imagine this: I have my shoes and socks off just in case I need those toes! A Gauss I will never be.  Nor an Euler (pronounced ‘oiler’) unless I’m  making spanakopita!


About eulerandothers

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One Response to Counting on my fingers. No computer!

  1. Lerner says:

    Greetings! When I’d seen Vibram shoes (they have toes built in, like gloves instead of mittens), I’d thought they were a trendy Paleo thing. But I see now they might really be for math instead 🙂

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