Barbara panicked. It had been so many years since she had even though about Geometry. Mathematics were never her strong point and she didn’t spend any time on the subject after she graduated and here she was faced with a problem once again. The puzzle stood before her and beyond it was a tired and exasperated Ian, trapped behind the thick glass wall.
“I don’t know what to do, Ian!” she shouted, not so much because she was frustrated, which she was, but because it was required to have her voice reach through the glass.
“What do you see?” Ian asked, unable to see the puzzle itself but only the blank back.
Barbara examined the puzzle and then shouted back to him. “It’s a large triangle with lines and squares… smaller triangles inside of it. And there are some numbers and letters.”
Ian sighed. “Triangles, squares, numbers, and letters. Well that narrows it down,” he grumbled to himself. “Do you have any thing you could write on the glass with?” he called to her.
Barbara looked quickly around for something that might be helpful. She noticed the dead fire on the other side of the room and hurried over, taking a piece of charcoal from the ashes. “Will this do?” she asked.
Ian nodded. “Yes, now copy what you see as closely as exactly as you can,” he instructed.
She began carrying out his request, trying to keep her lines straight. Once she was done she put the charcoal down. What she had drawn were two triangles with several congruent, of equal length, angles and sides. Some of the angles had variables and numbers in them.
Ian smiled. “Well it’s a Geometry problem,” he said. “What about the numbers?” he asked, gesturing to the square off to the side which contained the numbers zero through nine.
“They are all wooden buttons, each a separate number,” she explained. “What about the triangles?”
“Maybe it’s a simple problem? Have you tried the value of ‘r’?” he asked.
Barbara frowned. “Ian, I don’t know the value of ‘r’,” she reminded him. “How do I find it?”
“Didn’t you take Geometry?” he asked, slightly bemused.
“Yes, but I’m a history teacher. I don’t do math any more than measurements for cooking and finding my student’s grades,” she said, trying to explained why she did not have the faintest idea what to do. That entire year was rather foggy in the mathematics area.
“By the hypotenuse-leg postulate… no theorem-” Ian began.
“Ian! Just tell me the value of ‘r’!” Barbara cried, trying desperately not to loose her temper.
“Oh! Yes. Press seven,” he said, standing up from where he had been sitting.
Barbara pressed the number, hoping that he was right and that nothing horrible would happen. The glass came down, disappearing back into the hidden slot in the floor. She let out a sigh of relief.
“History teachers never have to use Geometry?” Ian asked, quite amused.