Lovelace 1/2 #2

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series Lovelace 1/2

Part two of the new ongoing story Lovelace 1/2. Folks seemed to like Andi the last time out, which is very cool.

I should mention something right at the outset. I work at a private school myself — some of the details at Brooks-Carillon comes from my school. However, the location of the school — just outside Brunswick, Maine — is several hours from here. None of the characters are based on any faculty, staff or students of the school where I work. This is wholly a work of fiction.

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Lovelace 1/2
Part 2

 

The J.V. lacrosse uniform was a dark green short-sleeved sport shirt with gold accents running on the side — green and gold were Brooks-Carillon’s colors — made of a porous wicking material, along with loose matching shorts. The Brooks-Carillon badge was over the heart. Their names and numbers were on the back — they’d had to buy the uniform. Andi’s said ‘Moore’ instead of ‘Gannett-Moore,’ of course. Her number was 8.

Andi walked over to the Microbird — the bus was green and gold, of course — and set her athletic bag and lacrosse stick down next to it. There were several other girls there, of course. All wearing their matching uniforms. Only the socks and sneakers distinguished their clothing — and the sneakers would be replaced by cleats when they were ready to play Hodgson Academy.

“All right!” Ms. Seok shouted, clapping her hands. “Get everyone together for roll call, and we’ll get on the bus! Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Andi watched the teacher — Korean-American, maybe mid-thirties. She didn’t smile often, and she did a lot of shouting, but then maybe that came with coaching an outdoor sport. Back at Canterbury the cricket coach shouted just as much. But that was different — she’d loved cricket and she’d enjoyed–

Andi paused, looking at Ms. Seok.

“She’s in a bad mood,” Judy murmured to Andi. Judy was a Year 10 — one of the JV Captains. She’d make Varsity next year for certain.

“Not really,” Andi said, cocking her head slightly as she looked at the teacher. Looked at her posture, at the slight tension in her back, the tightening of her eyes behind her rimless glasses. “She just doesn’t like lacrosse. She wants to coach football.”

“Football? We don’t have a foot–”

“Soccer, soccer. Sorry.”

“Why do you say she doesn’t like lacrosse?” Judy frowned, looking at the teacher. “She coached it last year too.”

Andi shook her head — memories flashing through her mind, forming a pattern. The tension in the teacher’s shoulders that only appeared when she was talking about her sport. The gushing replies to the soccer results in e-mail announcements. The way she rubbed her neck and muttered to the assistant coach when no one was looking. Half heard words. “She just… doesn’t,” Andi said. “I just realized it is all.”

“Whatever,” Judy said.

“All right!” Ms. Seok shouted. “Let’s count off! Ashbury!”

“Here!”

“Atwater!”

“Here!”

“Bailey!”

“Here!”

“Bar–” Ms. Seok’s phone began playing a rather fast pop ringtone. “Hold on,” she said, pulling it out. She glanced at the front display, then tapped it, taking the call as she turned away.

“God,” Judy said. “Can’t we just get on the bus already?”

“Right,” Ms. Seok said into her phone. It was quiet, but Andi could hear it — or at least figure out what they were saying. “Right now? What about — gotcha. No, we can sub in. Be right there.” She hung up, slipping the phone in her pocket. She turned to Ms. Claveró, the assistant coach. “Cindy, take the roll. I’ll be right back. Gannett! You’re with me! Come on!”

Andi blinked. “Gannett-Moore. Should I leave my gear?”

“Bring it! Let’s go.”

Andi picked her gear and lacrosse stick up and followed Ms. Seok. “Where are we going?” she asked as they started walking.

“To see Dean Forrester.”

Andi almost stopped dead. The Dean of Students? “Oh,” she said, walking faster to catch up.

“I’m going to have Debra take right-wing,” Ms. Seok said as they continued. “She’s not as strong as you are, but she has to step up. You’re good with the followthrough.”

“It’s all the cricket,” Andi said. “You get used to intercepting the ball with a stick.” She paused a moment. “Ms. Seok, do you like lacrosse?”

Ms. Seok didn’t answer right away. “It’s an excellent sport, and we have a good team,” she said, finally.

“Of course,” Andi said. “Of course.”

The Dean of Students office was right around the corner from the main entrance of the main hall. Ms. Seok led Andi to the door, knocking twice as they arrived.

“Come in,” Dean Forrester called. “Ah, thank you Jeanne,” she said as Ms. Seok led Andi in.

Andi took the sight in. The Dean’s office was a bit small, but homey. It had a couch and a couple of overstuffed chairs, surrounding a coffee table that was next to the Dean’s desk. Dean Forrester herself was fiftyish and blonde, wearing a light pink shirt and dark slacks. Andi’s advisor — her English teacher Mister Stone — was there too. Wiry, in his early thirties, dark-skinned with glasses, in a dark blue sweater over a blue collared shirt.

And in one of the other chairs was Mister Charlton, and he didn’t look happy.

How badly had Andi blown that test?

“Sure,” Ms. Seok said. “Should I stay?”

“That’s not necessary,” Dean Forrester said. “Good luck against Hodgson.”

“Thanks.” The coach withdrew.

Andi looked at the people in the room, feeling the walls closing in on her a touch. “What’s going on?” she asked.

“I think you know what’s going on,” Mister Charlton said, opening a folder and dropping her test on the coffee table.”

Andi breathed out. “Look, I blew the test. I know that. You know that. What did you expect? I’m terrible at math.”

“What did I expect?” Mister Charlton snapped, clearly angry. “I expected a little honesty. Or at least be a better liar!”

“Hone– what are you talking about?”

Mister Stone stood, spreading his hands. “Hey… let’s calm down and talk, okay?”

Dean Forrester picked the exam up. “Miss Moore–”

“Gannett-Moore.”

“I don’t think you want to interrupt me, Andrea,” she said, a touch sharply. “Mister Charlton has brought my attention to a pretty serious situation. If there’s anything you think you should tell us, this would be a good time.”

Andi felt her face flushing. Her heart was pounding. “Should be telling… I flunked a test. What more is there to–”

“Wait,” Mister Stone said. “Andi — what do you mean you flunked the test?”

“Well, we’re here, right? I must have–”

“Do you really think we’re that stupid?” Mister Charlton asked. “I mean, I admit it — I knew you weren’t good in math but I never thought you’d stoop to cheating. And to do it so badly. What were you thinking, Andi? You’re better than this!”

Andi flushed. “Wait. I’ve never cheated on a test in my life. Not once.”

Dean Forrester was frowning. “Miss Gannett… how can you explain a perfect score on a test in a subject you’ve only rarely gotten a B minus in?”

“Not to mention being the first in the class to finish the test,” Mister Charlton said. “And not even showing any work in the process?”

Andi stared. “I don’t. I can’t explain that, because I didn’t get a perfect score. I couldn’t have gotten a perfect score. I barely even remember doing the test. I didn’t get this stuff, and I knew it. I just wanted to get it over with. I only half-paid attention while I was taking it.” Andi’s voice was ragged, panic beginning to set in. “How could… I didn’t cheat! I didn’t…”

“Hold on, hold on,” Mister Stone said, soothingly. “Calm down, Andi.” He looked at Dean Forrester. “What if she didn’t cheat?”

Mister Charlton shook his head. “You’re saying she wrote all correct answers at random? There’s no way, Seth. None.”

“What’s the alternative?” Dean Forrester asked. “That she can suddenly… what’s this test over, Stan?”

“Simplifying binomials.”

“That she can suddenly simplify binomials as fast as she can write?”

Mister Stone shrugged. “I don’t know. I just don’t know. But I’ve worked with Andi all year, and I don’t think she’s lying.”

“Kids are good at lying,” Dean Forrester said. “Or think they are, anyway. But all right. Let’s find out. Stan, can you write up a problem? One that wasn’t on the test? Right now?”

“Of course,” Mister Charlton said. “Do you have a sheet of paper.”

“I have several,” Dean Forrester said, reaching over to her desk and pulling out a sheet of paper. She grabbed a red felt pen from a cup on her desk and handed them both over.

Mister Charlton thought for a moment, then scribbled on the sheet, using a copy of the Algebra text he’d clearly brought along with him to brace the sheet. He then held it up: (x-11)(x-10). “All right,” he said, offering the sheet to Andi. “Simplify this, and this time show your–”

“X squared minus twenty-one x plus one hundred and ten.”

Mister Charlton paused. “Excuse me?”

“X squared minus twenty-one x plus one hundred and ten.” Andi looked away, cold sweat on her brow. “I… I don’t know. That’s what it… that’s what it looks like. I don’t see how it could be anything else.”

Dean Forrester looked at Andi, then at Mister Charlton. “Well Stan?” she asked softly. “Is she right?”

“I’m not sure,” Mister Charlton said, his own voice low. “Give me a second.” He took the pen and began figuring. He did it quickly — he was an expert after all — then looked up at Andi. “My God,” he whispered.

“I… I’m sorry,” Andi said. “I….”

“Don’t be sorry, Andi,” Mister Stone said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t be sorry at all.”

“Give me another sheet of paper,” Mister Charlton said. Dean Forrester quietly handed him one. He began to scribble, almost furiously, then held up the paper. “What about these?”

Andi swallowed, looking at the sheet. “Twenty one x squared minus eighty-one x plus fifty-four. Six x squared plus fifty-seven x plus one hundred seventeen. X cubed plus four x squared minus eight x minus thirty-two. X to the fourth minus two x squared y plus twelve x squared minus twenty-four y. X cubed plus three x squared y plus three x y squared plus y cubed. X squared minus 14 x minus fifteen. That…” Andi bit her lip. “That last one was in the book. Problem six, on page one hundred twenty-four.”

Mister Stone looked at Andi, then looked at Mister Charlton.

Mister Charlton was staring. “I know,” he said, quietly. “I threw that one in because I knew the answer. Though… what page did you say?”

“One hundred twenty-four.”

Mister Charlton dropped the paper on the floor, and thumbed through the book. “Problem eight?” he asked.

“No. Six.”

“Right. I was trying to trick you.” He looked at Andi again. “But you remembered it.”

“I’m not a mathematician,” Dean Forrester said, “but some of those sounded more complicated than the others.”

“They were,” Mister Charlton said, still staring at Andi. “Some of them we haven’t covered yet. But she did them. She knew them all. Or… so I believe. I’d have to figure them out myself to be sure.”

Andi looked down. “I don’t understand,” she said. “I’m terrible at math. I can’t add two plus six without a calculator.” Eight , she thought to herself, but forced herself not to say it out loud.

“What’s the cube root of eight hundred ninety-seven?” Mister Stone asked.

“Nine point six four four one five four two four–”

“That’s enough,” Mister Stone said. “That’s enough, Andi.”

“Did… I get that right too?”

“How should I know? I’m an English teacher.”

Dean Forrester rubbed her eyes. “And I taught history before I decided sitting behind a desk and being paid more would be more fun. All right. Can we tentatively agree that whatever’s happening with Miss Gannett… Miss Gannett-Moore, sorry… she wasn’t actually trying to cheat?”

Mister Charlton shook his head. “I don’t know what I can tentatively agree to now. Something is going on, and I don’t think that she’s trying to… I don’t know. I’ve never heard of someone suddenly becoming a lightning calculator or a math prodigy. Maybe… maybe she’s some kind of idiot savant?”

“Savant syndrome exists inside either developmental delays — usually something on the autism spectrum — or a brain injury,” Andi said. “It’s believed their brains are finding new connections to circumvent where the circuits are disrupted. Those savants who aren’t brain-damaged or autistic do show signs of mental illness, essentially all the time. Savants also tend to lack awareness that other people have different beliefs or understandings of the world.” Andi shrugged. “None of that describes me, and I had to take placement tests before the start of Year 9 designed to catch that sort of thing.”

Dean Forrester stared at Andi. “How did you know all that?”

“There was a special on BBC2. My au pair was watching it.”

“Your au pa– how old were you?”

Andi shrugged. “Five and a half, roughly.” Five years, seven months, eight days she didn’t say, though it was on the tip of her tongue.

The three adults didn’t say anything for a long moment. Andi looked down.

“Andi, why don’t you head up to the team area and wait for me?” Mister Stone asked softly. “We have some things to discuss down here.”

 

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    • Speaking as a teacher – occasionally you glance at the test of someone who’s turned it in much earlier or later than they usually do, or someone who you’re generally concerned about, before you actually get to grading. If you’re surprised, you often then go on and check the whole thing quickly.

        • Also — just noticed this rereading today — right before the test, when he (sardonically) asked, “Feeling confident?”, she smiled and said, “We’ll see.” Plus, she said “I don’t think there’s much good [checking my work] will do me” afterwards. Both remarks could be read as suspiciously overconfident, given her track record in maths.

  1. Editorial note: this might be my ignorance of high school math teachers speaking, but I think this paragraph is a little dubious:

    “I’m not sure,” Mister Charlton said, his own voice low. “Give me a second.” He took the pen and began figuring. He did it quickly — he was an expert after all — then looked up at Andi. “My God,” he whispered.

    First, I think Mr. Charlton could probably solve the problem in his head (times ten is easy); second, I think “My God” is too strong a reaction — a startled “she’s right” would probably cover it.

    • Charlton was stunned, and wanted to be absolutely sure she got it right, and right then was shaken enough to question himself.

      His exclamation should underscore that he’s given to drama and hyperbole. See also how he expressed his anger. He’s a bit over the top.

      • Meh…I still don’t buy it. It’s really a very simple problem; he shouldn’t be downright stunned by her getting it right, and it shouldn’t take him more than a couple of seconds to check it in his head twice over. I’m a math teacher myself, and I certainly wouldn’t say “I’m not sure; give me a second” when asked if Andi’s answer was correct, because that would take longer than it would take to just do the math and then say “Yes.”