Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, but Washington Commons resident Charles Fleenor pins his philosophy to his shirt.
Sporting a self-made button that reads, "It's OK to Like Math," Fleenor, 87, shares his affinity for numbers with fellow residents at the Evans assisted living facility.
Fleenor, a former Ball State University math instructor and textbook author, conducts his program, "Mathemagic," once each month for residents to "get the cobwebs out of their brain, get them to think."
The roomful of senior citizens started a recent class like typical math students of any age; checking their homework.
The numbers found in the homework answers, including questions that ranged from the definition of triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) to the number of years in four score and seven (87), added up to 2008.
"It's amazing how certain things stick in your mind. You associate certain things with numbers," said Fleenor, as he discussed the assignment.
He gave his students a couple of quizzes and showed them how to add up six seemingly random four-digit numbers to equal 29,997.
"If a magician were up here doing this problem, there's no way he would tell you how he did it," Fleenor said.
He also donned a turquoise turban to play the role of the clairvoyant "Carnac the Magnificent," a character late-night comedian Johnny Carson portrayed on The Tonight Show .
Fleenor, who moved to Washington Commons in 2003, started the "Mathemagic" program about two years ago.
"I try to keep it light-hearted. I try to make it fun. A lot of times, people think math is dull," he said.
Fleenor started his teaching career in Indiana public schools and he taught math at Ball State for 13 years.
In 1969, he said he took a sabbatical from Ball State to go to California to write a series of math textbooks for pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade. He never went back.
Fleenor said he co-authored the textbooks, some of which have been translated into French, Spanish and native Hawaiian, with two colleagues from Ball State for 25 years.
He said he gets the material for his program from his head and from the textbooks he co-wrote.
"I regard the brain as sort of a muscle. If you don't use it, it atrophies," Fleenor said.
Annie Blankenship, a two-year resident of Washington Commons, said she attends the program every month.
"It's much over my head, but it's very interesting, and it's challenging. It's a lot of fun, a lot of surprises," she said.
Another resident, Mary Ellen Davis, agreed.
"I love it. I think it's great. Math was my major," she said.
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