So had son the younger done all his homework for this weekend?


“So, that’s a no, then?”

“There’s only this thing from Maths left” - which had clearly received a glance sufficient to park it in the ‘too hard for now, especially when there’s Minecrafting to be doing’ bucket. It was tricky maths, destined for a group discussion and design-a-poster-about-how-the-group-tackled-it session in the following week.

“Right, lets have a look”, said the DIY-avoiding dad.

“Its really hard”.

“Looks like there are several different ways to tackle it. Have you got any notes on what you’ve tried so far?” - yeah, right.

Son the elder joins the fray from a lofty 3 years higher in the school, “They like to see how you tackle it”.

“Yeah, he can’t do it either”

So, the same questions had been given to two different classes, 3 years apart, at the same time? Turns out, the teachers had set these questions for the younger year, and then called upon the great minds in the 3 years older class to actually solve the questions because, basically, when it came down to it, the teachers couldn’t actually.

Now, DIY-avoiding dad was showing an interest, and son the elder, who has principles, withdrew from the conversation wishing to ascend to the moral high ground of a solo solution, and insisted that son the younger, who has no such principles and could sense a bit of a mathematical leg-up in the offing, vacate the room and take the ethically dubious discussion elsewhere. To the kitchen, and a slice of freshly baked banana-with-maltesers cake, and son the younger’s expectant face expecting to be spoon-fed a solution too.

“So, explain the problem to me”.

The face falls, realisation dawning that this was quite possibly going to require some effort. The problem is indeed tricky, enclosing very specific areas with a limited set of fencing panels. and no obvious clues as to how to begin tackling it.

DIY-avoiding dad, who has a few tricks e’en now being retrieved from deep storage, wonders aloud what the circumference of 2 square feet might be?

This is easy. Son the younger is up to the task.

How about 3 square feet?

Still easy, but there is a subtle wrinkle.

4 square feet?

Easy-ish, more wrinkles, but hint-of-pattern is emerging.

DIY-avoiding dad looks perplexed. If only we could, sort of, you know, extrapolate this just a teeny bit further?

Ooh, ooh, hang on, its always going to this, no matter what we do, and since the only option is that, the answer is none.

Bingo. DIY-avoiding dad mentally buffs his fingertips. Still got it.

Son the younger bounces back into the other room, making no attempt to hide smug, in fact crowing, in fact gloating.

Son the elder mutters into his metaphorical beard about lack of principles, and “that was the easier of the two questions”.

Son the younger, still stoked, apparently unaware of the effort and interest he was now exhibiting, escorts DIY-avoiding dad back into the kitchen for more cake and nudges.


Cross Generational Puzzles
(from Fragments of writing)
by Chris Gathercole, RSS
published: 25 February 2017
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.