NEW YORK - “If you get this question right," Ahmed Alwan, 20, rehearses for us, "you will have five seconds to pick out whatever you want. Are you ready?"
Ahmed then asks his contestant a simple multiplication question: Say, 5x5? Or 10x9? Or 5x4? Answers of 25, 90 and 20, respectively, entitle the answer-er to a lightning round of bodega shelf sweep.
“Everybody in the video whoever did it has answered the question correctly,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed plays the role of MC, question-writer, and photographer in a series of viral TikTok videos shot inside his father's Lucky Candy bodega in the Bronx where Ahmed's worked for the last seven years.
“My dad isn’t really worried," Ahmed said. "It’s coming out of my paycheck. But he says, yeah, just do your thing.”
In one video, Ahmed asks: "10x10-50!" The contestant responds immediately: "50!" And Ahmed begins counting: "Five, four, three ..." The contestant reaches down to scoop up Lucky Candy's bodega cat and Ahmed shouts "not my cat!"
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That — joking — lunge to snatch Fluffy by one of the shop's regulars catapulted good Ahmed Alwan and his simple-math mind to at least near the realm of TikTok celebrity.
“I wanted to entertain people and help people at the same time,” he said.
At last check, Ahmed had turned 15 math problem TikToks from inside his father's bodega into nearly 300,000 followers.
“I’m just going to keep going," he said, "keep helping, keep asking math problems."