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Tuesday,September 29,2020 01:48 AM

The Boy Has A Mind Like A Calculator

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th July 2002 03:00 AM

There is nothing intelligent-looking about him. At first sight he is a boring-looking overweight, short young man. Look him straight in the eyes and he panics. His gaze wanders off to nowhere in particular.

There is nothing intelligent-looking about him. At first sight he is a boring-looking overweight, short young man. Look him straight in the eyes and he panics. His gaze wanders off to nowhere in particular.

By Patrick Luganda There is nothing intelligent-looking about him. At first sight he is a boring-looking overweight, short young man. Look him straight in the eyes and he panics. His gaze wanders off to nowhere in particular. Fidgeting with the newspaper in his hands, he prefers to concentrate through the intricate English vocabulary of the Saturday paper. To be exact, he is skimming through John Nagenda’s column: One Man’s week. Something must be seriously wrong. The ladies who brought him to the office a few minutes earlier want him to leave the paper and answer my queries but he just will not dare look me in the eyes. Instead, he answers with his eyes glued to the paper. “We found him in a shop on William Street where traders were giving him mental arithmetic numbers and he would give the correct answers to the amazement of the business people,” says one of the ladies who refuses to be named. Paul Serunjogi is abnormal. Never judge a book by the cover. Whereas ordinary mortals write sums down and wring their hands, biting their pen lids or fingernails trying to figure out the correct answers, Paul churns out the correct answer, like he is reciting a nursery rhyme. It is classical mental arithmetic. “What is the square root of 319?” I ask. “17.86 with the answer rounded off,” Serunjogi shoots back. Hmmm... Ahem...The computer answer reads : 17.86057109949. “What is the square root of 1111?” “33.3 rounded off.” Says Serunjogi. Computer reading: 33.331666625. “What is the square root of 1,000?” “31.62 rounded off,” he answers. Computer reading: 31.62277660168 There is now quite a crowd around the table. Many of the World Cup fans temporarily abandon watching the match to give the newfound mathematician a run for his money. “Multiply 5516 by 119,” asks Jude Etyang. “ 656,404,” comes the prompt answer. Correct. “I give up, the guy is just impossible. How does he do it?” inquires Etyang. Another doubting Thomas fires another multiplication number: 6666 multiplied by 113. The crowd is dumb struck when the young man answers: 753,258, the same as on the computer screen. Not that he did not fail any number, but it was a near miss. But in math there are no near misses, so he got it wrong all the same. For instance, he said the square root of 907 was 29.6 yet the correct answer was 30.11644. Then when he was given another long multiplication number he appeared to have switched off. Perhaps he was tired. Maybe he was fed up. For Paul Serunjogi does not do his multiplication sums for fun. In the city he is paid few hundred bob by people who get a kick out of seeing him cut down the sums to size. “Whenever my aunt sends me to town, people ask me to calculate sums for them and they pay me some money. But I would like someone to give me a job to solve their business calculations,” says Serunjogi. He did not go far in school, having dropped out in Primary six at Serrinya Primary School, 14 miles along Hoima road. He lost his mother in 1990 but never stayed with her as she lived and died in Masaka. His father Edmund Semakula, a peasant living in Serinya village, Wakiso district failed to raise the fees in 1997 ending his six-year stint in school. At school he found mathematics easy pie. He was not given any special instructions in the subject. He is just naturally gifted with numbers from a tender age. However, he was poor at the other subjects, explaining why his English in not good. He is at ease speaking in Luganda, his mother tongue. “I was not good at the other subjects but with mathematics I usually scored above 95%...I am willing to learn things like computer science but my people have no money to pay for me. Presently, I just help with the house work and run errands for my aunt with whom I stay,” says Serunjogi. Ends

The Boy Has A Mind Like A Calculator

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