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A Sad Day for Those Who Count

The month of August had some sadness you may have missed. I refer to the death of Jerry Nelson, the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Count von Count.

Now, the Count von Count, a vampire-like Muppet, was a parody of Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Count Dracula. He premiered in Season Four, counting blocks with Bert and Ernie.

Anyone who watched Seasame Stree knows that the Count had a compulsive love of counting (i.e. arithmomania). Annoying others at times (even kids watching), he counted everything...sizes and amounts. In one song, he stated that he sometimes even counts himself.

In a BBC radio interview some time ago, the Count said his favourite number was 34,969. Any idea why? (As a start, take its square root.)

In a tribute to Jerry Nelson, BBC Magazine asked readers to share creative insights as to why the Count picked 34,969. Some results:

  • In 1978 (episode 1156), the Count stated that 34,969 "used to be" his favorite number to Grover. And in Sesame Street episode 0187, Kermit the Frog sings "It's Not Easy Being Green."
  • Rotate 187 by 90 degrees clockwise...the result resembles the Count's hair, eyes, and nose.
  • In Genesis (Chapter 5), Methuselah at age 187 begets Lamech, who is associated with another Lamech in Chapter 4, whose children supposedly founded Freemasonry (which holds square numbers as special).
  • The number 187 itself makes the Count happy: "It has one, and as we know when he's alone he counts himself. One count! Eight is great and makes him shout hooray and he's madly in love with seven. Well, it's just so beautiful and seven-y! Honestly, the only thing better than 187, would be 187 squared. And there you have it."
  • In the movie Dracula 3000, made in 2004, the number 187 happens to be the name of a character who becomes a vampire.
  • On a Qwerty keyboard, 1,447 words in the English language can be typed using only one's left hand, while only 187 words can be typed using only your right hand.
  • 34,969 squared is 1,222,830,961...now add this number's digits in pairs: 12 + 22 + 83 + 09 + 61 = 187.
  • Part of West 187th Street in Manhattan is known as Sesame Street.
  • Unoctseptium is the temporary name of the undiscovered element with the atomic number 187. And, an anagram of Unoctseptium is "count up items."
  • "The answer is that the Count only wants to trip up the adults and make them over-analyse the problem in a way that is amusing to the children. The Count was meant to relate to children, and perhaps he knew that the children would laugh when adults tried to fumble around with digit mining. The Count is clever and knows the innocent, and intuitive nature of child humour. The children know that the Count's favourite number is in fact EVERY number (he is the Count after all) and that any old number would have the same effect."
So, put on your creativity hat...what is your reason why the Count picked 34,969? Send them to me...I will try to share the best.

Also, I personally offer a belated thank you to Jerry Nelson and Count von Count. Both did great things for math education, helping kids count... usually with meaning!