Willem Bouman is 80. He recently achieved his fifth world record. This was in mental arithmetic. Bouman broke the record in the Zwarte Doos on the Eindhoven University of Technology’s (TU/e) grounds.
To reach the record, Willem had to convert ten five-digit numbers to four squares numbers. For example, 53.820 = 230² + 30² + 4² + 2². This translates to 53,820 = 52,900 + 900 + 16 + 4. “I think being able to do maths in my head is a gift God whispered into my brain when I was young”, says a proud Willem. “Wherever I am, I am always busy with numbers.”
The maths veteran is best known in the world of maths for his bow tie, which sports prime numbers. His wife made it for him. “My wife made my outfit, and the bowtie is very popular at the championships”, the world record holder says. Willem’s achievement will be recorded on the Recordholders.org website.
Bouman’s calculation was audited by Professors Michiel Hochstenbach and Benne De Weger. They are both mathematics professors at the TU/e.”We are noticing that students’ mental arithmetic is deteriorating. We are hoping for a new generation of little Boumans”, Professor De Weger says.
Bouman wants to keep challenging himself. “I am taking a break now, but I want to dive into old material or try to decipher six squares roots. If I cannot count anymore, you had better bury me”, he says, jokingly.
Editor: Melinda Walraven