THE MATHEMATICAL CONUNDRUM


Have you ever tried reciting the Multiplication tables a couple of decades after leaving the school? Well, I did it –nearly 6 decades after my graduation! It happened like this:
Physical exercises are always associated with numbers in my mind. Every time I take a constitutional walk which I prefer to do alone on my terrace, my mind starts counting numbers automatically. The habit is so deeply ingrained that even when I switch on my electric massager, my mind starts counting though a timer is built into it. Counting while walking is good in that, it automatically sets the aerobic pacing- breathe in for two steps, breathe out for two steps. But, counting the numbers blindly like a nursery child does get on one’s nerves. It becomes such a dopish, mindless routine. Have they by any chance named them ‘Numbers’ because, reciting them by rote ‘numb’s the brain?
Well, I decided to change this disgusting conditioning of my mind and devise new methods to rejuvenate both sides of my brain while walking. I started counting in 2’s (upto 1000), in 3’s, 4’s and 5’s (upto 300). Then I counted the Squares and Cubes. In the case of the latter, I had to resort to cheating sometimes when my memory failed. As some more time was left in my mandatory 45 minutes (There I go again, Numbers, Numbers!), I thought of reciting the Multiplication tables from 1 to 20. It is very necessary for everyone to recite the 1 times table as well as the 10 times table, because with their easy nature they provide a sense of achievement and a break to the brain which is otherwise strung to a high state of tension.
Secondly, I noticed that whatever may be one’s educational qualifications, one always goes back to mother tongue or in whichever language one was taught the tables– to recite them or to make use of them in calculations.
Thirdly, the tables of 12 and 16 were indelibly printed on my mind due to the fact that those two were the tables we had to use when we had to do our money conversions—both Rupees, Annas, Pice and Pounds, Shillings and Pence. Children of modern times are lucky to be following the decimal system where you have to only add or delete a zero for conversion.
But, when I started reciting the tables in Kannada, I faltered in 13, 17, 19 times tables, which I quickly overcame (I mean without anyone watching me do it) by mentally doing addition and cleverly substituting the ‘total’ for the forgotten ‘product’.
Thus at the end of the day, I mean, at the end of the walk, I was brimming with triumph that I had forestalled any surreptitious advent of the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. But, at night I kept seeing numbers and numbers even in my sleep, sometimes in singles, sometimes in groups and sometimes cascading.
Next morning, the nemesis struck. I had lost my sense of Space and Time and kept bungling in my well set routine. My mind just would not settle down. It was totally disturbed. In spite of being reminded 3-4 times that it was Jan 28th, I had gone 3 times to the phone to greet my son in law whose birthday always fell on Jan 29th! It struck me that I should have let the slumbering neurons slumber on and not try to be childish and indulge in so much of number work. My mind was so agitated that it took me a full day to regain the ‘Homeo statis’.
So, next evening I was in two minds whether to go back to the dumb counting by 1’s or pursue my anti Alzheimer actions. Finally I decided that after all PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.
Here I go “9 times 17?”or would it be counting backwards this time?

Statutory Warning: Calculator users and senior citizens above the age of 30 years are hereby warned against trying these stunts which may result in total insanity!

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