A night with a love rat can help you to multiply

'Simenon claimed to have slept with 10,000 women. Tony Blackburn's score was a more modest 250'
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The Independent Online

The moment has perhaps arrived when we should admit that the much-publicised Maths Year 2000 has been, at best, a 43.71 per cent success. In spite of the enthusiastic urgings of beaks from the Senior Common Room - Basher Blunkett, Chris "the Prof" Woodhead, Vroom-Vroom Vorderman - the campaign has not approached the vibrancy and charm of its predecessor, the National Year of Reading.

The moment has perhaps arrived when we should admit that the much-publicised Maths Year 2000 has been, at best, a 43.71 per cent success. In spite of the enthusiastic urgings of beaks from the Senior Common Room - Basher Blunkett, Chris "the Prof" Woodhead, Vroom-Vroom Vorderman - the campaign has not approached the vibrancy and charm of its predecessor, the National Year of Reading.

Heaven knows, there has been enough hectoring in Assembly. A numeracy task force, headed, of course, by a numeracy tsar, has been set up to tackle something called "maths anxiety", said to be a peculiarly British problem. "Most homes are maths-free zones," was the numeracy tsar's sad verdict. The problem, the task force discovered, was that most adults think number work is dull and has little bearing upon their everyday concerns. Of course, that is right - I have yet to find someone who prefers doing sums to reading a book - but surely, with a little imagination, maths could be repackaged to make it fashionable, relevant and contemporary.

Candidates must answer all questions.

A. Steven Norris once had five mistresses and was a government minister. Now he has one mistress and is a failed candidate for London mayor.

1) If Steven used to spend £125 every Valentine's Day, how much money does he save on champagne, roses and chocolates every 14 February?

2) One of the mistresses has decided to sell her "My nights with love rat Steven" story to The Mail on Sunday. Calculate, to the nearest 5 per cent, how much the value of her story has declined over the past eight years, bearing in mind a percentage commission for her agent.

B. Darren and Jack take a summer break in Belgium. In a moment of high spirits, Darren throws a restaurant chair weighing 1.3kg at a group of Turks because they are enjoying themselves in an insulting manner. Jack unluckily catches the full 190-PSI force of a water cannon after a misunderstanding with the local police. By estimating the parabola of Darren's chair, calculate whether it will hit: a) a Turk; b) Garth Crooks, who is wandering by, looking for someone to interview; c) Darren.

C. The new Harry Potter has sold 350,000 copies in Britain and 3.2 million in the US. According to the Society of Authors, 61 per cent of authors earn less than £10,000 a year. Assuming the mean price of a Potter is £15, the author's royalty is 12 per cent and that, in a month, a human can remove 0.0004cc of tooth enamel through stress, estimate:

1) How many cc of enamel will be ground by authors during July.

2) How many sets of false teeth for other famous writers could be manufactured from the lost enamel.

D. Tesco announces that it is to abandon metric weights in favour of the old-fashioned imperial measure.

1) How much will a 100g Toblerone now weigh at Tesco?

2) How much free publicity, calculated to the nearest column inch, will the chain receive from red-faced traditionalists in the middle-brow tabloids?

E. The Belgian writer Georges Simenon claimed to have slept with 10,000 women. The nearest British equivalent is the DJ Tony Blackburn, whose score was a more modest 250.

1) If Simenon was active from the age of 12 to his death at 86, what was his average weekly strike rate?

2) How many women would he have slept with while Tony Blackburn was getting to first base with one?

F. Tony tells Alastair that today's message is that black is white. Alastair tells the lobby that Tony has been entirely consistent in his views about the whiteness of black, and that if the trivial-minded media wish to spin it otherwise, that's their problem. The lobby journalists pronounce that there is a major cabinet split on the issue. Tony tells the Today programme that black is a lot more white than it was under the Tories and that anyway what he originally said was a metaphor. Using Spin Theory, calculate which of them, if any, is telling the truth.

terblacker@aol.com

Miles Kington is on holiday

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