I asked a simple question: “What size is the (spare) room?”

The response: “12-by-15”.

This began a discussion about math, more specifically, how we individually solved the simple multiplication of 12×15.

I’m not one to carry numbers over and do the whole swing the digits over to the left as necessary. Too. Much. Work. I get something to zero, making the whole affair much easier to figure out in my head. So, faster than you can say “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally!”, I think: 12×15 = (12/2) * (15*2) = 6 * 30 = 6 * 3 “plus a zero”.

Yes, that’s the way I do multiplication in my head. I always get something to zero somewhere. Same thing with addition. I was the fastest student in Mrs. Delaney’s third grade class (room 205) when it came to solving simple addition problems. Given something like “7 + 6”, I would say, sometimes out loud, “7 + 6, 8 + 5, 9 + 4, 10 + 3, 13!” I would do this in a rapid fire kind of way, which would either startle my opponent in the game to the point that they couldn’t even find their fingers to start counting or else some sort of mutant weirdo gene would be showing its superpowers, thus guaranteeing my victory.

I was smug.

Earl has looked at me since the very first day he heard me do the divide/multiply thing to get multiplication or addition to a zero number to make it easy and tonight he finally asked me, “what are you doing?”

“I’m solving 12×15. It’s 180.”

“How did you get there?”

I explained to him my algebraic way of doing this.

He then spouted out, “15×10 + 15×2 = 150 + 30 = 180”.

Oh. My. God.

He takes a different avenue to get there but he does the “get to zero” thing also. He then admitted to me, for the very first time in 17 years, that when posed with a question such as “what is 7 + 8 + 9?”, he “sees” in his head 8×3, thus 24.

I then asked him what color of the stoplight he crosses the street on and he told me the dreaded red. I cross on the green because I cross with the traffic. He crosses on the red because that means the cars in front of him are stopped.

Two paths, one direction. That’s what it’s about, baby.

And this is why I use a calculator. Math has never been my friend.

But I like the whole “get to zero” concept.