Several years ago I was part of a group project in a math class for education majors that involved building a structure out of geometric shapes, analyzing all the math involved, and then–just for kicks–writing a story to accompany it. Well, my group chose to build a castle, and I begged to be allowed to write the story for it. They said OK (probably to shut me up), and I put together a short story with as many math terms thrown in as I could think of, just for fun and silliness. If math is something that normally makes you scream and run for cover, don’t worry; this particular piece is very nonthreatening. It’s got adventure, high stakes, and even a hint of romance. Well, a very slight hint. So, for your reading enjoyment (I hope…), here it is:
A Sequence of Events in the Kingdom of Numbers
The kingdom of Numbers was vast and magnificent. From far and wide people came to marvel at its many glorious achievements. Once hardly more than crude scratchings in the dirt, the kingdom had expanded its notation to include proofs and theorems as far as the eye could see, even from the top of Mt. Median, the great mountain in the center of the kingdom that overlooked each of the kingdom’s four quadrants. Yes, it was truly a land to which there was no equivalent.
But this grand kingdom was in trouble. From parts unknown a terrible foe had come and taken over the castle that stood on Mt. Median, a dreadful creature called the Mighty Googol with awesome powers of ten at its disposal. In desperation, the king called a council with the members of the highest order of the realm, the Order of Operations, and its wise leader, the Cardinal Number. Together they agreed that any and all champions of the kingdom must be summoned to face the creature, for it had issued a challenge that few might accept: a battle of wits, winner take all. A call went forth for a hero to defeat it, but none could be found who was a match for the Mighty Googol.
It was at this time that a young Number from an outlier arrived at a village that rested at the base of Mt. Median, having left his home to seek his fortune in the world,as young Numbers will do. He had not been in the village long when he heard rumors of the Googol. Wanting to learn more, he decided to strike up a conversation with a young lady passing by. Besides, he thought her to be quite a cute angle.
“Pardon me, Miss…?”
“Gon,” she said. “But you can call me Polly.”
“I’m Seven,” he introduced himself. “But most people just call me Lucky. Tell me, Polly, what are these rumors I hear of the Googol all about?”
“Oh, it’s terrible!” Polly exclaimed. “Since the addition of the Googol to our fair kingdom, division abounds, and problems are multiplying everywhere. It’s enough to subtract years from your life! The Googol has issued a mathematical challenge, but no one will accept it.”
Well, right then and there, Seven vowed to solve the problem. Moved by his courage, Polly offered to lead him to the castle, although she knew that in all probability their odds were not good.
When they reached the castle, they knocked on the great wooden doors and heard the sounds echo on the other side. As the doors swung open with a loud c-r-e-a-k, Polly glanced worriedly at Seven. He smiled back encouragingly.
“Who dares accept my challenge?” a great voice roared out, and the Mighty Googol strode out menacingly from the shadows.
“I do,” Seven answered.
The Mighty Googol blinked in disbelief. “You? You pipsqueak! You’re hardly big enough to wield a straight edge, let alone challenge me. You must be mad to think you’re a match for the Mighty Googol!”
“Well, I’ve always been an odd number,” Seven admitted.
“So be it! You must pass three trials of my devising. First…balance this equation! If you can,” the Googol snickered, throwing open a door on his left to reveal a nasty bunch of numbers perched precariously on a tottering seesaw over hot coals. Patterns of tessellations spun dizzily around on the wall behind them, making everything seem to wobble over the flaming coals.
Polly gasped. “Seven, you can’t possibly solve this! I can barely keep my balance just looking at it all!”
“There’s only one way to solve a problem like this,” said Seven grimly. “By working backwards!” Turning his back to the dizzying display and stepping carefully, the young would-be hero had the entire equation balanced before you could say “additive inverse.”
“Curses!” muttered the Googol. “All right then, if you’re so clever, let’s see how you do with a little logic problem. Where does 10 plus 3 equal 1, smartypants?”
There was a tense moment as Seven furrowed his brow and mulled over the question, then a slow smile spread over his face. “On a clock,” he answered triumphantly.
The Mighty Googol shook a fist at the young Number. “Aargh! 100 percent correct so far, but now you face my final challenge, and in my estimation you’re unequal to the task: present a mathematical problem that the Mighty Googol cannot solve!”
Polly’s heart sank, her newly sprung hopes dashed. How could such a problem exist?
The Googol bent down until he was eye to eye with Seven. “Well?” he sneered?
Seven didn’t even blink. “Calculate pi to the last digit.”
The silence that followed seemed to echo throughout the castle.
“You’re probably going to want paper and pencil for this,” Seven added.
And so it was that a bright young Number in his prime beat the Mighty Googol at his own game and saved the kingdom of Numbers. Legend tells that even to this day you can hear the sound of scribbling in one of the castle towers as the Googol churns out digit…after digit…after digit.
(My apologies if I’ve scarred anyone for life when it comes to math…)