As a grandfather I want my grandchildren to tell wholesome legends about Karen and me to their grandchildren. A large purple Easter Bunny on my dresser reminds me of how much fun creating legends can be.
Last Easter a glass vase of multicolored jelly beans greeted my three grandsons, aged 14 to 9, at our country club’s brunch. The jelly beans were packed inside the rounded bottom and piled along widening sides until they formed a crown at the brim. A sign invited people to guess the number of jelly beans and win a prize. Our grandsons guessed. I silently dismissed the guessing game as a waste of time.
After brunch the vase stood beside entry sheets and a basket stuffed with guesses. Looking for some way to make a logical count, I impulsively counted 22 jelly beans in an arc roughly a third of the crown. Counting would be impossible.
At that instant a grandson showed up, leaned on his elbows and said, “Oh look, Grampa is guessing the number of jelly beans.”
The others gathered around, expecting a performance I was unprepared to deliver and unquestionably would. I stalled for time.
“There are 66 jelly beans on top,” I said. “Now we need to count the rows.”
My elbow-leaning grandson and I each counted eight rows. “But Grampa, the rows at the bottom are smaller.”
That was one reason I stalled, but the jelly beans formed reasonably even rows except for the rounded bottom. He was stumped. I was triumphant.
The average of any sequence of numbers is half the smallest plus the largest. The average of numbers one-to-three is one plus three equals four, divided by two equals 2.
“True,” I said to him, “but we can compute the average number of jelly beans per row. Assume the last bubble row is one third the top row. That’s 22.”
No one spoke. Numbers mesmerize people so I talked faster.
“We add 22 to 66 and get 88, round that to 90, divide by two and we get 45 jelly beans per row.”
I wrote 45 times 8 equals 360 on the entry sheet.
“Gee,” my grandson assistant said, “I just guessed at my number.”
He got the message.
Stories need embellishment to become legends. “We can’t leave the number at three hundred and sixty,” I said. “Others might make the same calculations.”
I added three to account for the rounded bottom, confidently wrote 363, signed my name and tossed it in the basket.
My number looked precise, but was based on estimates (Legendary analysts don’t guess) of the arc, an assumption the rows were even and a visual assessment of jelly beans in the rounded bottom.
The point is I modeled an analytical approach. And calculating 363 was an exquisitely entertaining performance for me to give my grandchildren to inspire them to use logic.
At the condo their mother and I hid jelly beans and chocolate Easter bunnies in gardens and bushes. We played outdoor games. They watched tennis matches. I emptied waste baskets.
Suddenly the boys rushed into the garage, handing me the phone, shouting, “Grampa, you won.” “The number was right.”
I stared at them, Karen and their mother. Their faces were radiant.
The voice said, “Are you Jim Russell? You got the number right.”
Ahh, the jelly beans. She said there were 362.
I’ve since declared my analysis was infallible; a jelly bean must have rolled away as the judges counted them afterward.
All three grandsons piled in the car to pick up my prize. Even our 9-year-old grandson got the moral. “You analyzed how to do it instead of guessing.”
I explained again how I used math skills each of them already knew.
Back home, Karen grinned at me hugging my large purple Easter bunny. “Well, I think this time you’ve really convinced them you’re a genius.”
This Easter she suggested it’s time for my bunny to move on.
She’s right. It’s going to my granddaughters, along with the legend for their grandchildren.