Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

May 2016

I was a very gullible little kid.

Example: My mother told me liver was cowboy steak. To this day, I love liver.

In the third grade, we learned the “times table” through 9. Who could remember all that stuff? So I cheated.

First I learned all the squares, except I didn’t know what a squared number was. The squares were 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, and 81. I then noticed that the 9-times table was simple if I first did 10 times then subtracted the multiplier. You know, 9 times 4 is 40 minus 4 and so forth.

Because I was an ace on squares, 6 times 7 was obviously 36 plus 6. I could pretty much add or subtract to find my way around the times tables without actually learning the darn table, which is what we were supposed to do. I lived in fear Sister would figure I was cheating and call my parents or something, so I never told anyone my secret method.

Second half of the year we learned to divide. To make this fun and do a “cowboy steak” trick on the boys, we practiced our math skills playing a game the teacher called “touchdown.” You started with a three-digit number and multiplied by 2, then 3 times that answer, and so on until you had a huge millions kind of number. Then you reversed the process and divided by 2, then that answer by 3, and so on. You scored a touchdown if you could get all the way back to the original number.

You wanted to go fast but if you made a single mistake up or down the field, you had to start over. I noticed that after getting to 7 times going up, that coming down after dividing by 6, that answer was like the 7 times number with the 0 knocked off. If it wasn’t, I immediately started over saving a little off the game clock. I was on my way to learning the common core.

In a way, it’s why you can figure out how much change you’re due when you give the kid a five for the buck-17 ($1.17) purchase. You get $3 on the five, 80 on the dime (that’s three quarters and a nickel), and three pennies the kid throws in that dish by the register.

Or at a Chinese take-out, the kid grabs an abacus, slides 4 up on the third spoke, then 9 up on the second, 1 down on the third, finally 3 on the first rod, 1 down on the second.

By the way, dividing is easier than multiplying because you go left to right, which is why the Chinese abacus is easier than old-school adding and subtracting. Go figure.