Posts Tagged ‘maths’

The Gedious, 040819

August 7, 2019

K2: As soon as my maths teacher writes out a sum on the board, I call out the answer. so she called me a gedious.
Me: G D S?
K2: No! GEDIOUS! That means I am VERY intelligent!


Here he is, the Bubble-wrap Monster.

….This very modest guy may be a gedious in Maths, but his English….!

In not very fond memory…

March 12, 2012

I saw a very enjoyable update on Facebook, that says, “Dear Math (Maths, for us!)..I’m sick and tired of finding your ‘X’….just accept the fact that she’s gone. Move on, dude!”

This reminded me of three letters of the alphabet that made a misery of my young life. These were from either the vanguard or the rearguard of the English alphabet…but more often than X,Y and Z, they would be A, B, and C.

A and B were the heroes of every “problem” (read, mathematical sum) that studded my arithmetic book. They would build walls, fill up vessels, work in the fields…hard-working and industrious, they were obviously a golden example to follow.

But I never liked them. They seemed to have a fetish for doing all this work in very odd stretches of time, or even odder measurements of area. And if one was mentioned, the other was asked for. Why could A and B not take a day off, and go goofing off on a picnic? No, they never would..and perhaps, even if they did…they would take a certain number of hours to reach the picnic place and I’d have to calculate the distance it was from their (painted and water-filled) homes….

But much as I hated A and B, my feelings were tepid compared to my hatred for the evil, villainous C. C seemed to exist to create problems…not only maths problems for the text-book, but problems for poor A and B, too.

C was always a rogue. Let A and B build a wall, C would knock some of it down..and not all of it, which would have spared ME the problem of solving how much was left. C was a wastrel, opening the tap in the cistern that A and B so laboriously filled, and wasting a lot (but not all) of the water. Even if C was working with A and B, laziness and selfishness meant that C would not do the work on all the days that A and B did.

The hatred of A, B and C were much aggravated by the fact that though India was adopting the logical, sensible metric system, the old Imperial system was being phased out…but those eternal sadists, the mathematics text-book writers, would not let the old system die. I had to calculate the amount of whitewash (that A and B applied, and perhaps C blackened) in gallons. I had to reckon the area of fields (that A and B tilled while C slept) in yards and chains and furlongs. I had to measure the walls of the houses that A and B built (and C demolished) in inches and feet. I had to calculate the money that A and B made (while C stole or spent it) in rupees, annas and pies. I had to figure out the weight of their crops (C was probably burning it all) in ounces and pounds and hundredweights (a measure which, contrary to its name, was NOT decimal.) I cannot remember, now, how many chains made a furlong…but 22 furlongs made a mile, I think….sixteen ounces to the pound…twelve shillings to the monetary pound….oh, life was a merry hell when I came face to face with A, B, and C…..

I only realized later, that A, B, and C , and their mystery counterparts from the other end of the alphabet, would take on even more deadly avatars as the angles of various figures, and shapes, and haunt me through algebra and geometry and trigonometry….WHY is the formula for a hyperbola “x squared plus y squared is equal to zero”? I have never found out, and don’t ever want to. Who WANTS a hyperbola? I don’t even want an ordinary bola.

Life may consist, now, of entities even more mysterious than X, Y and Z….for example, my multiple (and elusive) boyfriends, the electrician, the carpenter, the plumber, the newspaper guy….but life is far less complicated when I have to calculate their charges only in decimal numbers, and though these boyfriends usually do far less damage to my psyche and self-esteem than the dreadful trio of A, B, and C did, in my school years….!

A problem in lateral thinking…and some more lateral thinking about problems

August 11, 2007

A friend of ours in Hyderabad posed this problem in lateral thinking:


We all know about old fashioned detonator cords – a piece of string
attached to an explosive and which burns for a specified amount of time
to set off explosion.

Well I have these two pieces of cords of identical length and looks.
One burns over half an hour and the other over one hour. I don’t know
which the one-hour piece is. To make the matters worse the rate of
burning is not uniform along the length in both cases i.e. for all I
know one tenth of the one hour cord may burn in 50 minutes and the
balance nine tenth in 50 minutes.

All I want is to measure a time of 45 minutes using these two cords and
a matchbox full of sticks. How ?

PJs about looking at a watch/ clock / asking the neighbor/ say “tick
tick one” and so on – not allowed.


Two separate solutions were thought of and emailed, and for a variation of the second solution,the problem also was modified to say, “a matcbox with just one match”. If you haven’t seen this problem before, think about it. You can email me for both solutions.

But to get to where *I* am with this problem…as usual, while trying to solve it, I fell to musing….

And of course, a little more lateral thinking tells me that I will follow the directions of the solution, but then go off because the milk is boiling over in the kitchen, and when I come back, the cords would have burnt out…and more than an hour would have gone past!

That reminds me of Swami in R K Narayan’s “Swami and Friends” , whose father sets him a sum about Rama having so many mangoes and Krishna( maybe I have the names in the reverse order) buying so many…at the end of some musing, Swami asks his dad, “were the mangoes ripe?” To him this is crucial to the question..if the mangoes are ripe, the price that Rama will ask will change! He also thinks about whether Rama is a good guy or a scoundrel, which will affect the price that Krishna has to pay!

It also reminded me of those three people I used to detest in school…A, B, and C. These three men (never, never were they women) were a restless set, always painting walls, tilling fields, and for some unknown reason, turning taps on. C was sometimes the evil one of the lot; he would come and empty the tanks which A and B had filled. And they seemed to work from dawn to dusk and never take a tea break or go to the toilet (except of course to fill up those tanks.) I used to think about C being a furtive skunk-type of fellow, sneaking up in the dark to undo A and B’s good work. I used to feel that just engaging a guard (D) at night was a good idea, to safeguard A and B’s work. Also, it would make the sum much simpler for me.

Add the fact that we were still in transition from yards(and chains, yes, that was a unit of length, too,22 chains made a mile) and feet and inches…and you many understand how I hated these fellows.