For some reason the events that happened to me in Ohio were all very significant to me and my life. I have told you about two of them: the handwriting incident with Ms. Bailey, the cigarette incident in the phone booth and now for the third incident. Another incident that changed my life. Ahh, the life of me.

Even though my family and I lived in Ohio for only 2 years (when I was in the 4th and 5th grade^{ }) we lived the first year on Wright Patterson AFB and then the 2^{nd} year in a house off the base in Fairborn, Ohio. I don’t know the reasoning behind the move. The house at Fairborn was pretty nice. Also what was pretty nice was the 5^{th} grade teacher I had at my new school, Ms. Rue. I really liked her and she was for sure much nicer than my 4^{th} grade teacher, Ms. Bailey! Ms. Rue treated a lot of her students, including me, nicely but with fair amount of appropriate sternness.

5^{th} grade was a step of major growth for me in many ways. The school I was in was fantastic and the 5^{th} grade class was full of people who I liked. But 5^{th} grade was hard for me…the hard part being MATH. I DID NOT LIKE MATH. I didn’t think that way and I much preferred reading and geography and writing. BUT NOT MATH OR even SCIENCE. I had no faith in myself was really what it boiled down to. I never had done well in Math in my younger grades and I knew it wasn’t going to change in 5^{th} grade either. My twin sister, Cathy, got the Math skills…not me.

I remember the several weeks we studied fractions. UGGHH. Fractions. Ms. Rue spent a lot of time with us on fractions. So many fractions on the chalk board (yes, it was chalk back then) I would dread Math time. And it was always right after lunch when I wanted to take a nap. So that didn’t help any.

I only got the basic fraction stuff, not the complicated fractions and subtracting them and all of that. It was horrible. The good thing was there were several people who sat around me that seemed to be getting the fraction thing. Not all of them but some of them. Especially this girl named Cindy. She was SMART in Math and probably other things but Math was definitely her thing. And Ms. Rue knew it and we all knew it. Any time Ms. Rue was doing the Math lesson Cindy was one of the people who would raise her hand often if she knew the answer…and she always did seem to know the answer. My mind just wasn’t made for fractions that was for sure but Cindy’s was.

After a few weeks of fraction mania, it was time for our first BIG TEST on fractions. I studied hard for it the night before. I really did. I really wanted to get some of the test right at least. And Ms. Rue had told us that it was going to count for a fairly big portion of our Math grade. I was already at C-, straddling D+ level in Math. I had to get that grade up.

The day of the test was intense for me. My seat was on the far left of the class in about the 5^{th} row and there were only 6 rows. One person behind me. One person to the right of me. One person in front of me and the window to my left. If you can imagine. Back then we did not have tables that 4 or 5 people sat at. It was one desk per person. We were actually packed in pretty good in that classroom.

We started our test, which was timed. I don’t remember how much time we had but I remember thinking it wasn’t enough time for me to finish. There were 30 math questions. Or should I say fraction questions. I panicked when I saw them all. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I took a deep breath and started and just went for it. I don’t know how long it took me but before you know it I was done. I looked up and took a deep breath again, thinking I would be one of the last people to complete the test. But no, I wasn’t. Everybody was still working on the test, including Cindy who was the person sitting right in front of me. I was alarmed. I must have done something wrong. I was never the first person to finish.

So I started looking at my test again. What did I do wrong? Ummm….looks okay to me but it can’t be. All the smart ones in the class were still working on theirs! I looked over Cindy’s shoulder since she was in front of me and she soon looked like she was just about done as she was looking over her answers. I could see her paper fairly clearly. She was pretty close to me. The biggest thing I noticed was that she had the same answers as me but with a negative sign next to almost all of them! WHAT? GOSH, I immediately thought that I was just so stupid. Of course the answer was a negative fraction and not a positive.

I didn’t see her whole paper but what I did see was at least the top paper and realized I better put a negative sign next to my fractions, especially if Cindy put a negative sign next to her fractions! I realized also that this must be a trick that Ms. Rue pulled on us. Most of the answers would be negative fractions and not positive. So, even though it looked as though Cindy and I had the same numbers as the result, Cindy had the negative sign next to the answers so I decided to put a negative sign next to my numbers. I was so very careful as Ms. Rue would occasionally walk up and down the aisles so I made sure she was nowhere near me when I looked at Cindy’s paper.

I then felt much better and proceeded to take my test up front, as we were instructed to do, and put them face down on the corner of the teachers’ desk. I couldn’t have felt more positive about a math test in ages. With Cindy’s “help” I knew my grade would go up in Math!

About 2 or 3 days later Ms. Rue indicated that it was time to hand back the Fraction Math test we had taken a few days earlier. I was so excited. I bet Ms. Rue was proud of me! I couldn’t wait to get the test back. But before Ms. Rue began handing back the test she turned VERY serious and looked at all of us and said, “No one got an A on this test…not a one of you.” She seemed very disappointed and I began to be perplexed.

Then Ms. Rue said: “There would have been at least one A in the class if this person had not looked at another person’s paper though. I am not going to tell any of you who it is, but the person that it is knows that I am talking about them.” Many eyes got very big and started looking around. But I am sure that not only did my eyes get very big but my cheeks I am sure got VERY red. I was absolutely horrified. Even though no one knew it was me, I knew it was me and Ms. Rue knew that I had cheated.

Ms. Rue began handing out the papers, walking up and down the aisles giving each of us our paper. When she got to me she put my paper down on my desk, tapped on the paper where the red grade was at the top and tapped again. I could not look up at her. It was humiliating. I had never been so close to hell in my life. Ms. Rue must have seen me cheat and also must have knows the specifics of what I had done.

Ms Rue wrote on the 2^{nd} page of my paper that if I had not put negative signs next to the numbers, I would have got an A. But since I did, I got a D. I only had just a few correct. More words were said to me later by Ms. Rue…but at least not in front of the other students.

I never cheated in school again. Never.

Wait, I have to get my breath!

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Hah! I thought you knew Mom!

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Caroline: Had I met you many moons ago, I could have helped you with the fraction stuff. My Dad was really good at math and he taught me all kind of tricks to make it really easy!!

It was good writing, I really enjoy reading it. Keep up the good work, Caroline.

Love, Quan

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Thanks sweetie

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I think you have learned all you needed to know about math and perhaps from this one experience. It is about confidence in yourself! You can trust the numbers….it is the damn words that mean different things to different people….you can never trust words!

nathan

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Pingback: Me the Cheat – But Only Once | Caroline's Place to Write

Good story , well written confidence is hard to have when you’re are Child. Once the proverbial Lightbulb turns on and we learn the insights into how Math and Sciences work only then do we gain the confidence to feel good about ourselves and being able to solve problems and complete the assignment.

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