The pleasure of calculation first came to me in the second grade. Sister Madonna had just taught the class multiplication with the number 2.

That night before dinner and then after dinner, I was thick in a calculation frenzy. Starting with 1 times 2, then 2 times the result, then 2 times the result, and so on until the multiplicand was wider than one line in my copybook. At the end of that night, I was thoroughly and completely confident that anything to do with numbers I understood.

Colorful Integers

Of course, I was wrong. A few weeks later after Sister had us memorize the twelve times table, I got into a big argument with my parents. I insisted that no way could 12 times 12 be equal 144. My mother tried to convince me, but I wouldn’t listen to her reasons. Then my father got involved. Nothing he said convinced me either. One hundred and forty-four was just too great a number to be the result of two tiny twelves. I don’t remember why I fixated against that particular result now. Thank goodness. It’s good to forget ill-founded thoughts.

Anyhow, my father tired of my wordy arguments and told me to shut up. He laid a large sheet of the newspaper on the floor. With a pencil and ruler, he drew a square, 12 inches on a side. Then he ticked off on the sides, one inch intervals, and drew lines across and down. He put a 1 in the upper left little square and handed me. “Count up from one in the empty squares.”

I learned two lessons that night. 12 times 12 is 144 and theories should be put to the test as soon as possible. That would have saved my household a lot on hot air that night.

Colorful numbers from http://combiboilersleeds.com/

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