I seem to have a propensity for post names which are simply numbers. I did it before with the number 8888, the number 2011, the number 64, the number 169, and even the number 3.14. Today’s post is about the number twenty-one, and was inspired by yesterday’s Hagar The Horrible comic.
In the comic, Hamlet is learning how to count by playing blackjack. Technically, the claim is incorrect, as a blackjack is Ace + Ten or Face Card, not 8+4+9. But oh well–the premise of the comic is that Hagar is using blackjack as a way to teach Hamlet how to count.
When I was very young, my parents also used blackjack as one way to teach me how to count. They didn’t introduce me to the idea of stakes, however, until much later. I remember one time in particular, when we were at the pool at the Country Club of Fort Dodge. It started raining briefly, so we retreated to an inside area, and Mom passed the time by playing blackjack with us (again, no stakes).
I learnt about stakes by playing the “Dr. Black Jack” program on the old Windows 95 computer. And despite that, I never became a gambling addict. It was something that I looked forward to at the age of 21, however. In fact, I will have a “Throwback Thursday” post with another of my Vegas days in the near future, just like the first one from a while ago. No worries, the post will be G-rated (or at worst PG-rated if my descriptions of gaming are not suitable for younger children :p)
In fact, I could imagine that when I was younger, if I was doing an addition Mad Minute, I might have said, for example on “13+9,” written the answer as “22 (too many!)” Mom, can you recall if I ever did this?
And to further this, and refer to the Vegas trip, one of the elevators in my hotel was out of service. Each of the elevators were “Express Elevators,” which I had only seen before in Abel Hall at the University of Nebraska. During the express part, the number on the display in the lobby changed to “EZ,” before emerging with a number greater than 21.
My joke was that the out-of-service elevator should have read “BUST” on the display, to further the theme of blackjack, since going over 21 is also called busting.
I think it is possible, and a nice idea, to use games such as blackjack and dice games as a way to teach probability and counting. There is no need to introduce stakes, just like what my parents did. Exposure to an activity (as opposed to a substance) that some people get addicted to is not necessarily going to create an addiction! Just like exposing kids to common allergens… it may be healthier that way. And you can always use context!
Though 21 has a bunch of other significances for me, I wanted to focus on the context of blackjack as it was used in the comic.
Today is the three-hundred and ninety-seventh day of Mission 441. Forty-four days remain.