Tag Archives: Elementary School

F is for Fruitcake

When I was in Mrs. Clements’s third grade class at RVA, I had a hard time with math.  I understood everything perfectly well, but I just wasn’t fast enough.  You know…multiplication tables and all that.  We had these timed quizzes and if you got all of the questions correct, you got a star beside your name on a little chart on the wall.  I saw the beautiful shiny lines of stars next to my classmates’ names and coveted them.  But I never, ever, ever got all the questions right, because I NEVER finished the quiz on time.  Except for once.   On this particular day, we had a substitute teacher.  I finished my last problem just as the time was up and couldn’t believe my luck.  But when I got my quiz back, I had gotten one wrong!  It was something ridiculous like zero times zero.  No, seriously.  That was the problem.  Zero times Zero.  And right below the problem, I had written my answer.  Zero.

I couldn’t believe it!  I was right!  I had gotten 100%. I would get a sticker!  But when I showed the teacher my answer, she said she couldn’t give me credit, because my zero looked like a six.  I explained to her that our  real teacher (I know, I apologize to all subs) had never taken issue with the way my zeros looked, but she wouldn’t budge.  And I never got a shiny metallic star next to my name on the chart.  I didn’t feel heartbroken. I felt betrayed. I felt persecuted.  (My family tells me that my account of my childhood is somewhat biased toward the “persecuted” side.)

Recently, I had to take a math placement exam.  I had taken a practice test and brushed up on my trigonometry (thanks, Yohannes!), and the kids were asleep (it was 12:30am), so I decided to go ahead with the actual test.  72 questions, 100 minutes, and no calculators allowed.   I never got to the trigonometry.  It was the good old multiplication and long division that did me in.  I was figuring out percentages and balancing equations, but I just couldn’t move fast enough and only finished 50 out of 72 problems.

But I know trigonometry! And Calculus!  I KNOW WHAT ZERO TIMES ZERO IS!  I WANT A GOLD STAR!!!!  My brain simply cannot comprehend that I could have failed at this, but it has been eight long years since I’ve cracked open a math book.   And the last time anyone timed me at multiplication and division without a calculator? Yep.  Third grade.  Elementary math refresher course, here I come!