Ethiopian Math

Halved or Doubled - the answer is always right!


Ethiopian tribesmen can only double or halve numbers - by using pebbles as counters. By halving and doubling, they take any two numbers, multiply them and come out with the right answer.

For example, if a tribesman wants to buy 13 sheep at 15 Ethiopian dollars each, here's how he works it out...

Put 13 in a left column, and 15 in a right column. Halve the left figure - you get 6 1/2... ignore the 1/2 (Ethiopians don't know anything about fractions). Double the right-hand figure. Keep this up until the left-hand figure is 1. You should now have:

     13     15
      6      30
      3      60
      1    120

Even numbers in the left column are evil to the superstitious tribesmen, and must be destroyed - together with their guilty partners. So scratch out 6 and its partner 30. Now add the right-hand column and you have the correct answer: 195. Try this with any two numbers - it doesn't matter which side is halved or doubled - the answer is always right! The Ethiopian's primitive mind simply cannot grasp how our system works. Of course you see at once how this joe-k works... Or do you?


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