September 30, 2011

A First Grade Math Nerd

When I was in 1st grade (back in 1983-84), we had breaks in the middle of class, that rotated so a small group of kids had a few minutes of recreation. I distinctly remember at one point heading to a hanging easel which was nothing more than a chalkboard with some chalk. Being a math nerd even then, I wrote up a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

At the age of six, I was writing a googol. (It would be decades before Google came about, of course). I remember writing the 1 with 100 zeros, pausing to make sure I had gotten it right... and then writing 100 more. The numbers filled the chalkboard. By the time I'd written the 1 with 200 zeros, and commas appropriately placed, "playtime" was over and it was back to my desk. But I remember the words googol, googolplex and googolplexplex being thrown around with my friends to represent the biggest possible things imaginable. Fun to know that word (slightly changed) would mean so much more now.

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