The Gauss Story

One of my favorite stories is that of the very young Carl Friedrich Gauss outwitting a mean teacher by solving a problem intended to inflict many minutes of drudgery (adding up the numbers from 1 to 100) by quickly discovering a shortcut to the answer.

I was reminded of the story by this interesting article that examines the story in a few ways.

I guess I don’t really care if it’s true. It’s still a great story.

One reason I like it is that it shows the victory of a young child over a cruel adult who was abusing his position of power. It shows that the common assumption of which of these people is smarter can be very wrong.

But, the main reason I like it is because it’s a great tale of cleverness.

And, I really like cleverness.

(By the way, the version I was told had Gauss performing the problem as an individual punishment, rather than being the first to complete a task assigned to the entire class. Somehow, I think that’s an even better story.)


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