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Letters & Numbers Rocks

December 28, 2011

A few months back I watched in passing an infomercial attempting to promote revolutionary methods of manipulating numbers created by some American math guru. Marketing primarily to parents of school children I would assume, the over-caffeinated voiceover in the commercial made it out as if man had discovered fire all over. In a nutshell this ‘wunderbar’ product appears to be long known & regurgitated shortcuts and techniques in basic mathematics that could be found anywhere on the internet but rarely applied to school maths. At the time I thought, what scenario could possibly require little Jimmy to multiply 47 by 63 in mere seconds, imagining some situation in which a veiled mugger jumps out of the shadows and confronts a grown-up Jimmy & his girlfriend after a late-night movie, “quick what’s 47 x 63 or I shoot”.

I am still of the opinion that understanding math theory is more important than being human-calculators, especially when they already have real calculators and the time could be spent more productively. But recently I would have to say I found an application of such a product at least partially to a program on SBS called ‘Letters & Numbers’. Not hidden from the title, the concept is to rearrange letters and numbers (in separate segments of the show) and produce the longest sometimes fastest result.

Hosted by Richard Morecroft, a personable and experienced television personality with a Maxwell Sheffield hairdo (including the white streak), who was apparently a host of ‘Behind the News’ on ABC a number of years back (I use to watch that show in Primary school).

The two other co-hosts are David Astle, an anagram guru and Lily Serna, a charming lady with a talent for mathematics, who is doing her honours degree in mathematics at UTS I may add.

Being an avid scrabble-clone (WordFued) player on my phone, I am constantly scrambling and looking for words from bunches of letters. That is why the ‘letters’ segment of the show is up my alley. The contestants pick 9 letters and with half a minute on the clock they have to come up with the longest word from the set. Most probably due to a handsome sponsorship from the Macquarie Dictionary, agonisingly David has to flick through pages and pages of the book on his desk to verify the words of which he usually has the longest.

The ‘Math’ segment is just as enthralling. Lilly who employs those previously mentioned math techniques comes up with ingenious solutions to the required number.

Richard Morecroft: “The number to get is 150”…

(after the segment)

Richard Morecroft: “so Lilly how did you do? Show us how you came up with the answer?”

Lily Serna: “well you take the root of that number, and multiply it by pi, then subtract the log of…… and there you have it 150.”

Richard Morecroft: “Thank you Lilly, another simple solution, how did we not see that one?”

Overall the show is a great mind stimulator and is fun and educational. Too bad I only catch the last 10 minutes of it usually. 6 pm SBS is when its on.


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