All entries for Thursday 09 April 2009

April 09, 2009

Small Children & Big Numbers

Writing from Denmark. My uncle came by today, and I saw, among others, two of my cousins: one is 6 years old, the other is 4. And I'm proud to say that they both seem interested in numbers! Some day they will become great Mathematicians... (Right, in my dreams).

Somehow, the Fibonacci sequence comes up as a topic at the table. The oldest of the two kids asks me what that is, and I tell him it was complicated. He then insists that I explain it to him, and I answer that I can't do that without a pen and a paper. Whereupon he produces a paper and a yellow marker pen in front of me. So I think, 'Hell, why not', and I write two "1"s on the paper. I ask him to add them and write "2" once he has said so. I then ask him to add 1 and 2, and so on. He understands the idea pretty quickly. Together we then proceeded to write more terms. He starts giggling when we go past 100, but to my amazement, he continues all the way up to... 1597, the 17th term! I was stunned.
Then we went playing outside.

What To Do With Daisies


Later, the younger one tells me he can count to a billion. 'Show me,' I say. He then starts running in circles while counting: 'One... two... three... four...' For a split second, I worry that he is seriously going to do it, but I quickly dismiss the thought. Around fifteen, the counting becomes less and less distinct, until it is nothing more than an inaudible mutter. I can't tell if he is still counting or just pretending, but he is still gleefully running in circles. Suddenly I catch on to his counting again: 'thirty-nine... forty... ONE BILLION!'. And he stops and looks at me with a big smile. I ask him about forty-one, but immediatly regret it. My cousin just blatantly denies the existence of such a number.
And to think he was so close to the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything...


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