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  • I go in to grade 8 three days a week for math. It’s the highlight of my working week. The teacher is a humanities teacher who I had to ask to teach math as well

    It’s not like they are bright lights or anything, I said, and I’ll come in and help

    She didn’t say it but you can imagine the interior dialogue, Great! I get the math kids who haven’t got it and the principal in my class three days a week, care to put a cherry on the top for me?

    A few weeks later she admitted I made her nervous. This, after she read a good 20 minutes from the wrong page. No one noticed for quite a while.

    I am not in as the principal I said. Truly

    She didn’t laugh but she didn’t smile either.

    That was a couple of months ago.

    Today, I went in and she was asking the kids who had questions or wanted to finish to go to the table with, right on cue, Mr Ben. I gathered up markers and some pink scrap paper and a of stash of pens and joined them.

    Brianna is the only girl in the class. She arrived part way through the year with a guy I was pretty sure was gramps but turned out to be dad. Mom is 8000 miles away.

    You’ll be the only girl, I told them during the tour. I was pretty sure this would be a deal breaker.

    You’ll just have to handle it won’t you honey, said Dad in a slow Southern drawl.

    She didn’t answer, just looked at her sister and then far away.

    One to eight.

    She calls me sir with her head tilted to one side if I give more than one direction at a time. Today, her pages are blank.

    I start where we left off last time. What is a ratio? Selemo remembers comparing. Geoffrey remembers groups. Brianna is quiet.
    We remember the examples we made up. Pencils to pens, boys to girls, markers to pens, teachers to kids. The lights come on around the table.

    We take a step toward proportions. They remember multiplying and an x.

    We consider fractions and equivalent fractions and lay out pencils and pens, expanding and reducing.

    So, Selemo, which problems did you say you had trouble with, I asked.

    We go through the steps. Read the sentence. Find the ratios. Put an equal between them. Cross multiply. Divide.

    We have 4/20 and x/200.

    Let’s stop, I say. What do you notice about the numbers.


    Brianna, I ask. What do you think the answer might be. I’m not looking at her. It’s a total off hand out of the blue, sneak attack, I wonder.

    40, she says without thinking.

    She sits up straighter as it appears she is right.

    We work through most of the problems.

    Read the sentence
    Find the ratio
    Cross multiply

    She doesn’t say I get it. She doesn’t say it was easy.

    Thank you Mr Ben, says Brianna

    Highlight of my day.
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