As interactive whiteboards and iPads take over classrooms across the world, it is understandable that companies relying on a demand for blackboard chalk might struggle.
What is perhaps less understandable is why one particular chalk manufacturer going out of business should provoke the sorrow of mathematicians mourning the demise of a ‘dream chalk’.
The Hagoromo Bungu Co. had been selling chalk for over 80 years from Aichi Prefacture in Japan, the WSJ reporting that it sold approximately 4.5 million pieces a year in its heyday.
However, with changes to the classroom environment shrinking demand the company was forced to admit defeat, and it halted sales in March.
A Stanford mathematics professor, Brian Conrad, told Gizmodo that chalk remains one of mathematicians’ primary tools even in the digital age “because we’re crotchety old people”.
And the Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk was at the very pinnacle of the chalk world. According to Conrad, its semi-mythical status, which prompted it to be hoarded by mathematicians before the company went out of business, comes from the fact it “flows nicely and lasts much longer”.
So significant was its impact on the discipline that a Japanese TV crew travelled to Stanford to interview academics about the chalk.
Satyan Devadoss, a professor at mathematics at Williams College, Massachusetts, wrote in a blog post that a “chalk stained shirt and pants are trademarks of quality teaching and research.”
Devadoss described his mission to find a legendary ‘dream chalk’ that is “so powerful that mathematics practically writes itself”.
“I can finally say, after months of pursuit, that such a chalk indeed exists,” he wrote. “It is called the Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk.”
Devadoss went on to describe the product as the ‘Michael Jordan’ and the ‘Rolls Royce’ of chalk, before claiming: “Once you’ve used it, there is no going back.”
While another company, Uma-jirushi, has taken over manufacture of the Hagoromo, which it brands DC Chalk Deluxe, Gizmodo reports that output will be significantly reduced.
Fortunately, the ‘dream chalk’ can still be purchased on Amazon, where a 72-piece set costs £59.00.
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