Math for my Mom – Birthday Edition

Happy Birthday!

Earlier on this month my dad turned 50, and my brother and I drove down to his house in rural Saskatchewan to surprise him. He was so surprised and happy that he started crying. It was very sweet. My dad is a very sweet guy in general. He lives close to my Baba (grandmother) and makes his living doing odd jobs around the town.

Now my dad is no mathematician, but he observed a cool thing with birthdays and his siblings. First, my dad (born in 1962) has 4 siblings: Zandy (1956), Pat (1951), Phillip (1949) and Perry (1953). In 2011, when he turned 49, his brother Phillip turned 62.  I.e. they each were as old as the other’s year of birth (well not counting the 1900 part). Even more, in 2013, when my dad turns 51, his sister Pat turns 62. This will continue on when he turns 53 (Perry will be 62) and 56 (Perry will turn 62). Neat!

Try it on your own. Choose one of your siblings (I’ll pick my brother who was born in ’90), and remember your year of birth (mine is ’87). How old will you be when your sibling turns ‘your birth-year’-old? Well, for me, my brother will turn 87 in 2077, and I will be 90 when that happens! It works!

So my dad pointed this out to me one cold winter evening (as he was smoking and I was watching the prairie stars), and I didn’t immediately know how to explain it. What is going on?

Well try this. Take the tip of your middle finger on your left hand and touch the tip of your index finger on your right hand. Now, while still keeping the connection, touch the tip of your middle finger on your right hand to the tip of your index finger on your right hand. Then straighten out your fingers, so that your fingers are straight.


Maybe you feel like this instead? (This is math for my mom, remember, and I think she would laugh at that picture.)

Anyway, now you understand right?

No? Well the idea is that short + long = long + short. In my example with my brother, 1990 + 87 = 1987 + 90 = 2077. Or maybe more clearly, 90 + 87 = 87 + 90.


There you go! Let me leave you with a fun fact about the town Foam Lake, where my dad lives:

In 1996, after the UN declared Canada the best place in the world to live (for the 5th consecutive year), a research company used the same criteria to locate the best province. It was announced that Saskatchewan won. At that time, the provincial CBC radio held a search for the best place in the province to live. Foam Lake won hands down. -Taken from the Foam Lake website.

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