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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Counting Sheep in a Pen

Think back in time. A shepherd is counting his flock. He thinks that one is missing. He places pebbles in little piles so show just how many sheep he is responsible for. He carries his pebbles in little bags. The bags get heavier as the numbers of sheep grow.

The shepherd in the next valley uses a notch on a stick. This works very well until the herd grows so big that he needs a very long stick.

The third shepherd uses his fingers. He asks one of his fellow herders to raise a finger as soon as ten sheep have passed.

Every now and again, before your children go to bed, please remind them that the number 5 is 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1, and that it equals 5 times 1. Suggest too that the shepherd would be hard pressed to explain to one of his family that he had 7 times 8 sheep. Surely he should have said that he had 56 sheep?

This is important because he may have asked his son the following question:

If one sheep needs one square metre – and the perimeter of the sheep pen is 24 metres – how many sheep could he fit into the pen?

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