Dan Smith
A (straightforward) puzzle, from the book "Seedfolks"

Native speakers, please give learners a chance to answer first.

"Seedfolks," by Paul Fleischman is a short book for young adults. I loved it. It is about how a community garden in Cleveland changes the lives of the people living around it. I loved it. (I was afraid it might be too nice, too sweet or too idealistic. It isn't).

This is the beginning of Chapter 2. The book was published in 1997. The words are spoken by a character named Ana. Assume that she is saying these words in 1997.

I do love to sit and look out the window. Why do I need TV when I have forty-eight apartment windows to watch across the vacant lot, and a sliver of Lake Erie? I've seen history out this window. So much. I was four when we moved here in 1919.

About how old is Ana?

(This is a grammar question, not a math question. I said "about," so you don't need to be exact. If anybody cares, assume that Ana's birthday was in February, that "we moved here" in March, and that she is speaking in April).

Apr 2, 2019 6:07 PM
Comments · 7

Congratulations... Belka and Alycia

Tempus... what a great story... thank you for that

Dan... I would have answered your question earlier, but my calculator was broken and I simply didn't have enough fingers.

April 2, 2019

Dan,                                                                                                                                                                                                       I was thinking today about how a simple event in your life can affect your future in ways you never imagined.

       I've had a plot or two at the community garden in my city for a good 10 or 15 years.  Frequently we get new gardeners who give gardening their best shot for a summer, and then when the weeds have reached 4 feet tall in their plots they decide that maybe gardening isn't for them.  I said hello to one of those new gardeners at the community garden one day.  It turned out that we had similar interests, so we ended up becoming friends.  I had been attending a certain church in the area because I liked the music.  I invited my new friend to go with me to hear the music.  I eventually discovered that I could just buy the CD and stay home on Sunday, but my friend kept attending the church.  It so happens that he met a girl there, they got married, and they adopted a baby.  None of this would have happened if I had not said hello to him that one day 10 years ago at the community garden.

   Seemingly insignificant events can influence our future.

April 2, 2019

Yes, that's the correct answer.

It's not difficult for someone at an intermediate level. The grammar and verb tenses in "I was four when we moved here in 1919" can be difficult for a beginner. The presence of the number "forty-eight" in the paragraph is distracting, too, even though anyone who knows English fairly well can see that it obviously has nothing to do with years or dates or ages.

April 2, 2019
The truth is, that it wasn't so much that I wanted my students to calculate her exact age, as to understand that this is an old person. I think a native speaker, even a high school student, would grasp very quickly that a) Ana was four years old in 1919, so b) Ana is old. That's not obvious to a beginner. Of course there are many other clues, such as "I've seen history out this window" and in the following sentences about "horse-drawn fruit-sellers carts" on the street.
April 2, 2019

Oh, so it is 82! I reread the passage 10 times when no comments had been posted yet but I thought there was some catch like in Sherlock's stories so I didn't dare write about my guess...

Lesson learned: Occam's razor is true.

April 2, 2019
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