Iranian professionals with elementary school educations.

Iranian professionals with elementary school educations.
by Ari Siletz

The above is a photo of an uncle's 5th grade math notebook, recently discovered by the family. It dates back to 1934 when he was 11 years old. He and his brother were taught by a certain Mirza Einollah in their village. They came to the big city for their "higher education," and were accepted in 5th grade. He finished at the top of his class, and later used his sixth grade diploma to become the accountant for a major hotel in Tehran.


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مرسی‌ مامان، من اشتها ندارم


پسرم بیا صبحونه بخور.

نه مامان، سیرم.

تو که از خواب بیدار شدی و تا حالا چیزی نخوردی که؟

چرا مامان، رفتم تو حیات، زمین یخ بود سر خوردم.

نتوستم تعادلمو نگاه دارم، زمین خوردم

بابا دید لباسم کثیف شده فحش خوردم

رفتم برای کارنامه امضا بگیرم، بابا دید تجدید شدم. حسابی‌ کتک خوردم

حالا باید برم مدرسه و چون دیر شده به معلم بگم گوه خوردم

واسه همین دیگه میل برای خوردن ندارم



اه ، دوباره رفوزه شدم


حالا باید کتک بخورم.

Anahid Hojjati

Ari jan, yes.To do our jobs, we have to perpetually retrain

by Anahid Hojjati on


Dear Ari, you are correct, in order to do our jobs, we have to perpetually retrain.  However, I am not in the software area, so it is not as bad but I do get training on new products, applications, data bases, etc.  



by bayramali on

It is awesome, perfect and nice photo of old memories. for 75 years ago . another thing, what difficult text is it for a math question. it could use for literature class too :)

Shazde Asdola Mirza

Priceless: I punched them into Mathematica and it came out #&%@

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

Every voice counts! Every action counts!

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

Thank you for complimenting Uncle Hassan's fifth grade handwriting, which is admirable even for an adult. Benross noted it too. I have a feeling Mirza Einollah knew his student was gifted.

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

No, we're not that old, and you are younger than I am. Whimscially though, I define "old" as the age where you start understanding what your parents were trying to tell you. By that standard, I have been old since my kids were born. Where I feel it most in the current context is where degrees and certifications are no longer enough; to do our jobs we have to perpetually retrain. When was the last time you had learn an upgrade to a software you use in your job?

Anahid Hojjati

Dear Ari, you and I are not that old

by Anahid Hojjati on


Ari jan, when you and I were growing up, matters had already gone to lissans.  You could still get good jobs with high school diploma but that was exception rather than the norm.  When I was growing up, high school teachers had to have Lissans and some had education beyond lissans.  But in Oil company and some other places, you could get good jobs with high school diploma.


5th grader?

by Princess on

Thanks for sharing. 

Is this a 5th grader's handwriting? Impressive.




Ari I envy your math skills!

by Monda on

The antiquated page reminds me of my dad's kaarnaamehs which I found in his old desk drawers.

parastou khanoom

My Dad's Daftare Hessab

by parastou khanoom on

I am glad that my cousin posted this photo. The funny thing is that I got the same wrong answer as my dad to masaleye 23. I translated it for my 11 year old to see if she could do better. She immidiately downloaded the problem into her Mac and started working on it with her Ipod in her ears and texting on her cell phone at the same time. Guess what? She got it wrong too. She is still working on it.


Merci Ari

by HollyUSA on

...for all the great info and especially for the prescription for underage players!
I'd hate to mathematically kill off small children :P

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

You and I probably grew up around the time when tasdeegh sheesh inflation was just starting. Lots of people started getting them only to realize that diplom was now the order of the day. Today, of course, matters have gone to lisaans and beyond.



by benross on

Schools didn't kid around back then.

I was too coward to be a bad student but I remember other students with a pen placed between their fingers and squeezed!... reminiscent of the old school! 



by yolanda on

 I am impressed by the rigor of the 5th grade Math in Iran. It looks like American math education lags behind Iran by up to three years. American kids learn systems of equations involving 3 variables in 8th grade or even later! (Algebra II)

Thank you for your eye-opening blog!

Thank you, MPD, for translating the Farsi numerals into Arabic numerals. I am impressed with your solutions! Great job!


Delaram Banafsheh (Yolanda)

"Cactus in the Desert"

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

The answer to #24 is clipped out of the above photo, so we see just part of the calculation. My unlce comes up with 85 in the full photo, which is the same as your answer--give or take the disputed 5.

And you're right, the problem doesn't ask for percentages, but the answer is revealing, and involves cultural considerations beyond math. That generation of Iranains understood too well the 191 poor sods who were too scared to show up for katbi, certain of humiliation. The ones that showed up were arrogant enough to think they could pass. Schools didn't kid around back then.

Anahid Hojjati

Both my grandmother and my aunt (ameh) got professsional jobs...

by Anahid Hojjati on


Dear Ari, both my mom's mom and my ameh have passed away.  They would be about 90 now.  They both got jobs in education field in Lorestan in 1930s.  At that time "tasdeegh sheesh" was enough to get a job as a teacher or school principal.


What percentage of

by benross on

What percentage of participants flunked the sixth grade general exam?

I missed what happened to those 5 people. That may be the reason of the difference between my result and your uncle result

592 total eligible for final exam

11 absent in written exam

191 absent in oral exam

300 passed oral and written


592-502=90 <- flunked  

#24 didn't ask for the 'percentage'! 

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

Yes, a sixth grade education was pretty decent back in 1934, even in Tehran.  This is based on the following observations:   1. Iran's first university (Tehran Unviersity) was inaugurated in 1934 (same year my uncle was in 5th grade).

2. In 1934, there were a few educational institutions in Tehran that went beyond sixth grade (darolfonoon, Alborz, Adib, marv)  They were a cross between universities and high schools) serving a population of about half a million. They graduated a few hundred students a year.

3. In 1940 Iran, 10% of elementary school age children were enrolled in school (private maktabs excluded).

4. In 1940, 1% of high school age kids were enrolled in school (seminaries excluded).


13837 x73 = 1010101 which multiplied by any 2 digit number repeats the 2 digits. Don't let a 7 year old try it because it will add 63 years to her age. For kids under 10, the recommended dose is 37037 x age x 3.


Here is a Problem for MPD to Solve

by Faramarz on

از مثلث آ ب س
زاويه آ
ضلع ِ ب س
و محل طقاطع سه عمودمنصف معلوم است
مثلث رارسم كنيد


This is great Ari

by HollyUSA on

We have a couple of similar books, one from my Grandfather and another one from a great uncle. They really are wonderful pieces to have.

Do you happen to know what the average education levels were back then in Iran? Sixth grade was probably pretty decent especially in smaller cities and villages.

Here is a math teaser for you - Try it:

13837 x Your Age x 73

I'm no Math genius so it blew me away!

Ari Siletz

Problem #24

by Ari Siletz on

Glad folks are having fun with this photo. MPD, it also took me quite a while to sort out #23, but here's a two step problem about #24 which says a lot about the educational system of the time: What percentage of participants flunked the sixth grade general exam?

Multiple Personality Disorder


by Multiple Personality Disorder on

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in one discipline of engineering, with a minor in math; then I have a professional engineering certificate in a different engineering field, but I had no clue what the question was stating, most likely because of the text.  So then I had to do a reverse engineering type of a thing to arrive at the question, and then once I understood the question I solved the problem as so:

So then:


And then:


I think your uncle back then was much smarter than me now.  He solved the problem in five steps.       

bajenaghe naghi

Ari jan

by bajenaghe naghi on

This is a great example of family historical document. It seems to be in a pretty good shape.

Math and me never understood each other. But to be serious, everything seems to have become watered down and more wishy washy and abbreviated for easier digestion. 



Thank you

by benross on

We should remember the handwriting.

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

I love these little pieces of cultural history. Fascinating stuff. It reminded me how difficult it was to study math at school. It's a shame that I could never get into it. Math seems (is) so logical.

Thanks for sharing.

khaleh mosheh

Hippocrates- Ars longa Vita brevis

by khaleh mosheh on

"Ars longavita brevisoccasio praecepsexperimentum periculosumiudicium difficile,"


Life is short, the art long,opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult.  

    Your Uncle lived in interesting times that with 6 years of education he got a professional job.    Thanks for this interesting post.