Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day Moment

Here is my proud father story from this last father’s day weekend. First understand that one of my college degrees is in Mathematics. I am having a discussion with my son, 6 years old, who is just finishing kindergarten. We are discussing which is bigger, huge or gigantic. We both agree it is gigantic. He then tells me that the biggest number is infinity, which is correct. I then ask him what about infinity plus 30, isn’t that bigger? He looks at me and says “Dad, if you were to sit down and think about if for a while, you would realize that infinity plus 30 is really the same as infinity.”

I think I will buy him a slide rule for his 7th birthday.


Peggy U said...

Maybe ... although my boys like to steal my graphing calculator and write insulting messages to each other!

Then I showed one of them how to switch to polar coordinates and play with sine and cosine functions. He had a lot of fun, and every now and then I still find my calculator with an interesting new "picture" on it.

Pedicularis said...

Definitely a chip off the old block. :)

Would that be a circular slide rule or a linear slide rule? I still have a couple of 3-inch diameter circular slide rules around the house.

I remember my dad teaching me how to use log tables when I was about a 5th grader. You might remember why the log tables were used in preference to a slide rule, but it is mute point today, with Excel and solar powered calculators with 13 significant figures.

I like to play a mind game with boy scouts by asking them about the square root of 16, then 9, 4, 1, 0, so far so good, -1, oops, insert long lecture, -4, -9, and -16. I once played it to perfection, convincing the bright young scout that we had just contrived imaginary numbers, so I asked him to ask his dad what is the square root of -16. His dad, a Boeing engineer, knew the correct answer, which blew the kid away. It was sweet!

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