The Beaver's Lesson

Mar 10, 2015 | Evanston Skokie

Mar 3, 2015

Did you know that Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, was a math professor at Oxford?

In another of his works, The Hunting of the Snark, Carroll has one character, the Beaver, try to add 2 + 1:

"Two added to one---if that could but be done,"
It said, "with one's fingers and thumbs!"
Recollecting with tears how, in earlier years,
It had taken no pains with its sums.

It's so easy to forget math that we don't use on a regular basis.  Fortunately, most of us don't forget 2+1, but the value of Mathnasium is that our comprehensive assessments make sure that students don't forget important skills.

In Carroll's poem, the Butcher then decides to show the Beaver that 2+1 does indeed equal 3:


"Taking Three as the subject to reason about---
A convenient number to state---
We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out
By One Thousand diminished by Eight.

"The result we proceed to divide, as you see,
By Nine Hundred and Ninety and Two:
Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be
Exactly and perfectly true.

"The method employed I would gladly explain,
While I have it so clear in my head,
If I had but the time and you had but the brain---
But much yet remains to be said.


Sadly, for many students, such a preposterous explanation sometimes seems like what they hear in class from their teachers.  At Mathnasium, our instructors make math make sense.  We would be happy to show you with a free trial session---call today to schedule!


PS  Can you figure out the Butcher's "proof"?