beanz Magazine

Algorithm Design

US Library of Congress

Could you add up all the numbers between 1 and 100? Here's how to do it.

There’s a popular urban legend about Carl Gauss, who may have been the greatest mathematician in history, and was probably a little too sassy for his own good. It goes like this:

In Germany, at the cusp of the 19th century, Master Büttner was fed up with his rowdy pupils. In those days, public schools were sober, single-room affairs crammed with students of all ages — a crucible for chatter. In the hopes of peace and quiet, Büttner sentenced his pupils — among them a young Gauss — to a long, mind-numbing task: adding up all the numbers between 1 and 100.

This kind of drone-like calculation is sometimes called ‘number-crunching’ — and it’s frustrating work. What if you forget a number? Or don’t quite add up 47+48 correctly? You might have to start the whole calculation from the top!

If Gauss and his peers had computers, they’d be laughing, because computers are lean mean number-crunching machines. We’re talking over 100,000 MIPS (million instructions per second)!

So if your teacher assigned you the same dull task… you’d do it the smart way.

STEP 1: Open your favourite web browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer) and navigate to

STEP 2: In the ‘Search for a Language’ box, type ‘Python’, and select it. Python is a lightweight, interactive programming language. In other words, you can spend less time worrying about semi-colons and more time doing fun things, like playing soccer or baking cookies.


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