Thursday, October 6, 2016

What is the largest number you have counted to out loud?

I take attendance by having the students answer a question. (This question was student-generated, too!)

What is the largest number you have counted to out loud?

Usual answers: 100, 101, 125, 200, 400, 999. "I don't remember."

Unusual answers: 7, 20, 42, 54, 117, 267, 723. Why stop at (1) such a small number, and (2) a non-round number?

Impressive answers: ∞, 5000, "1000 (My parents wanted to keep me distracted and I was 8.)" (note: it worked, and this student is now a math major!).

Answers I, personally, found confusing: i, -1, √115, 0, "2 grillion", 17 1/2. I'm not sure what increments you are counting in to get to -1, or i, or square roots, or fractions. Actual theoretical issues of countability (in the technical sense) come into play here.

This post's theme word is plangent, "loud and resounding," or "sad or mournful." The plangent dirge counted onwards, never ceasing, its rolling tones reverberating down the valley, but I had come to suspect that the Plinker Monks would never reach "square root of 115 bottles of beer on the wall"... (-excerpt from My Life Amongst Mathematical Entities from Thought Experiments)

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