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· Odd, The Norwegian Mathematician ·

"Here's your first question," says Styles. "Without using numbers, represent the number 9."

"Without numbers?" says Odd. "Dat is easy" and proceeds to draw three trees.

"What's this?" asks Styles.

"'Ave you got no brain? Tree and tree and tree make nine," Odd says.

"Fair enough," says Styles. "Here is your second question. Use the same rules, but this time the number is 99!"

Odd stares into space for a while, and then picks up the picture that he has just drawn and makes a smudge on each tree. "'Ere you go."

Styles scratches his head and says, "How on earth do you get that to represent 99?"

"Each of da trees is dirty now! So it's dirty tree, and dirty tree, and dirty tree. Dat is 99."

Styles is getting worried he's going to have to hire this Norwegian, so he says, "All right, Odd, last question: same rules again — but now represent the number 100!"

Odd stares into space again, picks up the same picture, makes a little mark at the base of each tree, and finally says, "Ere you go. One hundred."

Styles looks at the attempt. "You must be nuts if you think that represents a hundred!"

Odd leans forward and points to the marks at the base of each tree, and says, "A little dog come along and crap by each tree. So now you got dirty tree and a turd, dirty tree and a turd, and dirty tree and a turd, which make one hundred . . . When I start?"

"Well," says Styles, "I maybe need help in finding a book I recently misplaced."

"Oh, dat, Styles, vill be as easy as pi."

Return to Math and Lit By Artful Dodging.

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