Econ Mom talks Gauss to the anti-Maths son

“Ok, what are concurrent lines?”I asked for the third time. No answer. Because my lil one has these special Manasi filters fitted into his ears. These are specially designed filters that all pesky kids at age 11 are gifted by the Almighty himself. They are specialized cochlear implants, invisible to the human eye, made with the latest design and technology so that except for Mom’s ugly voice, ALL possible sounds, even those that are made at ultrasonic frequencies by interesting people such as Harsha Bhogle, M. S. Dhoni and best friends calling for playing gully cricket etc. can pass through..GGRRR…

“WHAT ARE CONCURRENT LINES???”I yelled to the living room in general, thereby jerking hubby out of his date with the World Cup final (the lil one, thanks to the filter, didn’t even notice that mom just brought the ceiling fan down), causing him to realize that there is this livid specimen of a wife in the same room and that too, one (wife, not room) filled with that zest for cracking upcoming Std. VI exams that he soooo cannot fathom. “Eh?” hubby started guiltily, “concurrent lines..are those, which are, well…concurrent” he concluded triumphantly. “But sweetheart (oh I hate it when he talks to me like I am in Std. VI), why do you need to know what are concurrent lines? I mean, this passion for Geometry at this age”…oh, gimme that geometry box, someone, quick…cos its got that divider in it with some seriously interesting jabbing possibilities there…hehehe..

With agility and speed that would have put the most acutest of angles to shame, I made my arm concurrently intersecting with the lil one’s arm and grabbing him, kicking and yelling, dragged him to his study table. There he sat, looking mutinously at me. “That’s the WC Final you just dragged me out from Ma…how could you?” Oh, yeah? “And that’s your Maths Final you are going to flunk tomorrow if you don’t pay attention. Yesterday, you drew a perpendicular bisector that was at 91.8 degrees, a whole 1.8 degrees extra, how could you, to the horizontal line. Alright, I want you to solve these 10 problems. NOW.” The lil one reacted pretty violently to the whole idea muttering something suspiciously like “Hitler.” Sigh. I let that pass. Doesn’t make sense to push him too much..

Who the hell created this new parenting mush anyways? Oh, I often think wistfully of those delicious old time tested methods of a good spank now n then to get things going….heeheehee..You know what Mommyhood is? Oh, never mind what they told you about it being the most uplifting feeling in the world, filled with moments of joy unparalleled. Its unparalleled alright, but most of the times, that joy bit is so not happening..Mommyhood…Its about identifying with Argus Filch (PERRFECT!) in every which way. Right from being the only confirmed Squib amongst the cricketing wizards to cleaning the muck in the castle ALL the time (GRRR) and feeling more and more happy at the thought of crazy punishments that can be meted out…heeheehee…yep…mommyhood is about feeling Filchy….

“Done…Can I go see the match now? “No.” I reacted reflexively. One of the golden rules of Filchyness. When kid says X, you say Not X on automode. “But mom, I HAVE to see the Aussies bat!” And, with that, he skipped away to the match, where Daddy dearest was waiting for some company. Oh, what a disaster! This child has solved 3 out of the 10 problems wrong. Am I teaching him Maths the wrong way? (That’s typical Mommy reaction too…GGRRR) Well, c’mon, that cannot possibly be the case. Maths cannot always be taught…

My mind went back to Carl Friedrich Gauss again…the mathematician? A child prodigy. No, actually an infant prodigy. “What’s a prodigy, mom?” That was the lil one, later that night when I was telling him the story. “Well, someone born with skills. Inherent, inborn skills. You don’t have to be taught things. You just know. That’s what a prodigy is”. I was amused to see the lil one green with envy. “Superwickedcool! He must have done Maths exams without preparation!” There are so many of those interesting stories around Gauss. It’s believed that he taught himself to read at age two (“Hmph”, lil one reacted, the sour grape), since there was no one around to teach him in his very humble background. And at the age of three, he apparently spotted a mistake in his father’s accounts. (Lil one was snorting in disbelief, but I pushed on bravely through the biography..)

Such a genius was Gauss at Maths that he used to solve everything the teacher said in a jiffy and then bother the other kids (“Heehee, thank God, the boy had atleast SOME fun..”). So, one day, when he was just seven years old, his teacher (must have been in a Filchy mood) told him to add up 1, 2, 3,…all the way to 100, thinking that that would keep him engaged for a while. But “5050” he piped up in the next few seconds and gave the superb solution that he got 50 pairs of numbers that added up to 101 (1 and 100, 2 and 99, and so on..) There are some anecdotes that he actually said something about “folding up” the number line to come to the solution! How lovely! I am smitten…folding up the number line!!!

Well, what unparalleled interests the man had! There was an Italian astronomer by the name of Piazzi who had spotted a celestial body which he christened “Ceres.” However, Ceres apparently suddenly disappeared! Gauss did the mathematical calculations that predicted when and where Ceres could be spotted next, and that too within only half a degree of error! “Yes, I knew it! Sign of genius, Ma..All geniuses do their geometry with a couple of degrees off!” Sigh.

It was Gauss at just 19 (I thought this would interest my lil one immensely, since we are currently struggling with geometrical constructions) who showed that the construction of a 17-sided regular polygon could be done with a compass and a straightedge (“Oh, it was HIM, was it…GRRRRR” Indignation. Anger. Red in the face). It is also said that he had requested that a heptadecagon be inscribed on his tombstone post his death. But the mason declined saying that a 17 sided regular polygon was too close to a circle to work so hard on it! As things happen, Gauss’s tombstone at Braunschweig has a pedestal in the shape of the heptadecagon…

“A 17-sided figure…and here you are, troubling me all the time with a simple angle-bisection, for heavens’ sake!” I grumbled to him once the story time was done. “But”, reacted the lil one cleverly, “could he play 3 boundaries and 2 sixes over the rooftop when team was 5-down? What a boundary I hit, Ma…You should have seen it. Half a degree to the left and I would have got caught. But total accuracy, Mom, total accuracy…that’s MY cricketing mantra..Oh, I am sure I would have beaten him at cricket” God, what is the world coming to? I was despairing when “Ummmm, mom? Did his mother teach him at home?” Well, Gauss’s dad was a gardener and his mother was illiterate. In fact so illiterate, that she never even recorded his birth date. She told him once later that he was born 40 days after Easter and Gauss actually worked out a formula to understand when Easters must have occurred in the earlier years and then got to his birthdate. “That’s no big shakes. Even I could have done it…Its only that well, I already know my birthdate!”

The Maths paper, as expected, was a disaster. “All because of you,” he reacted on coming back home. “Why couldn’t you be illiterate, eh?”

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10 thoughts on “Econ Mom talks Gauss to the anti-Maths son

  1. “Who the hell created this new parenting mush anyways? Oh, I often think wistfully of those delicious old time tested methods of a good spank now n then to get things going….heeheehee..”
    You sound so much like my father when you say this, it’s uncanny.

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  2. hahaha….I am so glad my mom wasn’t an economist!!!!
    And teaching him to use divider at 11?!!!…do you want to turn a budding Dravid into a reluctant Gauss? 😛 ….no one loves filch…except umbridge…don’t turn into one 😛

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  3. Chanced upon your blog while floating through the internet. Well, I had been an economics student sometime in my life (seems far away now) and a thoroughly bad one at that. The first line that I ever read out of a Paul Samuelson book was – “Even parrots can be economists; all they have to do is learn two words, ‘demand’ and ‘supply’.” I think I took Samuelson too literally and never went beyond those two words and the world lost a promising economist!

    I started reading your post with interest due to one single common factor we share – parenthood of an 11 year old! And I must compliment you for keeping me interested in a topic I never thought would interest me – Maths! Apart from the fact that I understand how you feel as the Filchian mother, I could sympathise with you for that 1 degree. But for the other 359 degrees, I was with your son! And if he did say all geniuses do their geometry with a couple of degrees off, then take it from me the boy IS a genius! To be so sharp and witty at 11 requires genius!

    I actually looked up Gauss on wikipedia, thanks to you! I think I am going to be a regular subscriber to your blog. To put it plainly, you write extremely well! Thanks for the post.

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    • Cheers to that! Thank you for reading through those random thoughts…its great fun for me to bump into other people/ moms with Filchian leanings 😛 Thank you for all your comments…it means a lot to me 🙂

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      • Cheers! Just to clarify – I am not a mom but a dad with not-so-Filchian leanings! My wife is that one and I feel one Filch is just about enough in the family! I am Dumbledore most of the times who sometimes dons a Snape-ish robe and lisp!

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