Bits & Pieces, April 30, 1992
The class of noisy boys in a German primary school was being punished by their teacher. They were assigned the problem of adding together all the numbers from 1 to 100. The boys settled down, scribbling busily on their slates&md;all but one. This boy looked off into space for a few moments, then wrote something on his slate and turned it in. His was the only right answer.
When the amazed teacher asked how he did it, the boy replied, "I thought there might be some short cut, and I found one: 100 plus 1 is 101; 99 plus 2 is 101; 98 plus 3 is 101, and, if I continued the series all the way to 51 plus 50, I have 101 50 times, which is 5,050."
After this episode, the young scholar received special tutoring from his teacher. The boy was Karl Friedrich Gauss, the great mathematician of the 19th century.