“The answer is four times square,” Mollie answered, her slight frame swollen with pride.
“Mollie,” the teacher sighed, dropping her head. “You can’t ‘times’ a square. When a number is ‘squared,’ it means you multiply the number by itself.”
Mollie scrunched her nose.
“But how can a number be multiplied if it’s by itself, Miss Morgan? That doesn’t make sense.”
Miss Morgan had her work cut out for her. Two weeks ago, it seemed easy enough to accept the principal’s challenge to raise the class average to a B+. It currently leaned on a C-, like many of the classrooms at this school. Miss Morgan wasn’t aware of that when the accepted the interim teaching position. According to a few gossips in the teacher’s lounge, the last math teacher had quit. The administrative office would neither confirm nor deny whether this was true.
She supposed it could be worse. She could be teaching at one of those schools which required teachers to give their students A’s and B’s, regardless of whether they knew the material taught and earned the grade. Miss Morgan had a hard time believing those schools existed until she substituted at one for a week and accidentally gave one child a C+. Guarding her life for two days in the nation’s third most dangerous inner-city school was nothing compared to the wrath of an angry heiress spitting haleotosis breath in Miss Morgan’s face while shrieking about her eight year old son’s chances of attending Harvard being ruined with such a fallible grade. It was a relief when the headmaster released her from the temp position with her week’s pay already embossed on a linen check.
Miss Morgan wanted to teach, not give gold stars to every child who crossed her threshold. She wanted to build the foundation for future inventors and entrepreneurs, bright doctors and scientists, innovative designers and artists. In order for her to consider her mission a success, children needed to understand the basics of math, English, and science.
Picking up a piece of chalk from her desk, she crossed the room to where Mollie quizzically gazed at her incorrect answer at the board.
“A squared number,” Miss Morgan began again, “means an integer – in this case, four – is multiplied by another same integer.”
“So it’s four times four?” Mollie asked. “Not times square?”
“Exactly,” Miss Morgan smiled.