One Times One is One. One Times Two is….(ms)

My friend Flannery sent me a text message the other evening. Out of the clear night sky came a question: “What comes after a trillion?” it came on a night meant for lazing back with a cup of tea and a decent book or even one that requires brainwork, something by Poe for example. Still, the question was intriguing. At one point I suggested he find an astronomer and ask him or her what that number might be if it even exists. Those folks   are, after all, quite used to dealing with numbers that have bunches of zeroes connected to them. My knowledge and use of numbers is nowhere near that involved.

I can do addition and subtraction in my head if the numbers are simple, I can do a little dividing too if we don’t get into fractions. But where I really shine, where if I do say so myself I sparkle, are the multiplication tables. For that I have my fourth grade teacher to thank.

School was never the adventure for me that it might be today. Kids have so many opportunities to learn, so many areas to explore, so many subjects to become immersed in. We, in the fourth grade of the Lawrence Building were not given those opportunities largely because they did not exist. Still, our teachers made do with what they had and gave us the best education they could especially when it came down to multiplication.

I am of an era before calculators, way before. In the fourth grade we had a blackboard, chalk and the amazing process of repetition. Two or three times a week we took our positions at the board, picked up our chalk and began writing out the times tables. One times one is one; one times two is two and so on seemingly ad infinitum. We would write out a few in each period and then, for good measure, our class would turn to the center of the room and recite what we just wrote.

The multiplication work went on until we went through them all, one through twelve, then we would start over. If you do that for nine months it is difficult to not learn the tables or almost anything else for that matter. I don’t especially like Shakespeare because of the old English he used, I don’t know what half his sentences mean. I do think if I were given a few pages of his work and told to memorize them constant repetition would let me do it.

Anyway, I did not choose math for a career because I found I was not very good at it. Allowed to free range through algebra and trig later on I learned quickly that numbers never did what I wanted them to do and unlike words they were rigid and could not be bent or massaged to do my bidding. But the multiplication tables, I never forgot them and all these years later can still run them as if I were back there in class. Some things just stick with you and I’m happy this one did. Comes in handy.

Oh, Flannery found the answer by himself: Quadrillion. Now you know.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on March 7, 2011.

One Response to “One Times One is One. One Times Two is….(ms)”

  1. Winderful post. 4th grade with Mrs. Nichols was my favorite ever! I remember the flash cards and the little pennies m nickels and dimes my parents had out on the table to teach me my “times tables” as multiplication was sometimes called back then.. Sometimes ,for excitement and variety , my Mother would used buttons or even life savers candies to help us along with our “times tables”… I seemed to do a lot better on the nghts I got to keep the life savers for all of my “correct answers”. When I took my first Real Estate exam , we were not permitted to use calculators. And our MLS listings were in a book ..no computers then. And you know what? We did just fine.. I loved my work back then the best… when I had the chance to think things out on my own.. and work for it a lot harder.. always made things so much sweeter when they came to fruition.
    Loved the post… Keep them coming.. refreshing and nostalgic..

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