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A Shout From The Attic: Mental Arithmetic

...Arithmetic has never been my strong point. I usually managed to keep off the bottom of annual examinations at
Spring Grove School only because Mary Appleyard usually got none and I managed two more than her...

Ronnie Bray continues his engaging autobiography. To read earlier episodes please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

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“I will study and prepare
and perhaps my chance will come”
Abraham Lincoln

Arithmetic has never been my strong point. I usually managed to keep off the bottom of annual examinations at Spring Grove School only because Mary Appleyard usually got none and I managed two more than her. It wasn’t until I was almost eighteen and in the Army that I learned how to do long division. That was thanks to the Army Education Corps.

A year and a half later, serving in Cyprus, I was still making use of the Army’s Education programmes to advance my limping edification to a standard that would let me compete in life on a more or less even playing field. I had arranged to sit a bank of Army Certificates of Education, and these upcoming examinations were the cause of my attendance at the Education centre. I was making some kind of sluggish progress in Arithmetic when they discovered that I was in the REME – I think my uniform gave the first clue - and that meant I had to take Mathematics, including trigonometry.

The woolly-haired young Army Education Corps sergeant-teacher became so gently frustrated when attempting to indoctrinate me in the lesser points of trigonometry that during a moment of histrionic over-emphasis, he aimed at a bag on his desk, missed, and was next seen climbing back into a standing position with an air of complete and utter resignation not usually seen on the face of one so young.

Even though I could not grasp or remember any of the simple formulae that some very young children are so adept at internalising and using as common language, there were some things I knew about arithmetic, and the ”three-halves-rule” was one of them.

Of course, it might never have come up had I not been a high profile Mormon when about all that was known of them was that they caused a bit of trouble with their Religious, social, and matrimonial customs in frontier America in the Nineteenth-Century, and that some of these had spilled over into the British Isles at the hands of some exceptional missionaries.

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