When I was just a young boy
, my parents bought me a shiny metal calculator
. It was a wonderful shiny metal calculator
, as sturdy as it was attractive. It cost them a lot of money to buy, but that wasn't a big deal because money was of no concern.
One day I was at school in a math class as the teacher was handing back our tests. The boy who sat next to me, Timmy, got his back first. Timmy was a poor boy. A TV show like Silver Spoons
was as distant a notion to him as a TV set
. He didn't have much in life, save for his will to survive
and an old battered plastic calculator. His calculator was cracked
, and held together by several different brands of tape
and a rubber band
. It looked like it had been dragged out of a brutal calculator ethnic cleansing
. Somehow, through all of that, Timmy was smiling.
"Your calculator is broken, Timmy," I said to him in a reassuring manner before asking, "Why are you smiling?"
Timmy grinned from ear to ear and said, "I got 100% on the test!"
I was shocked that a boy with a calculator
as battered and thoroughly repulsive
as his would be able to get 100% on a math test.
Just then the teacher handed back my test. I looked at it and was instantly horrified
. "90%" was written in bright, bold red letters across the top. The red was so alive it might as well have been drained from my own body.
I raised my hand and asked, "My calculator
is shiny and metal, why did I only get 90%?"
Everyone got a good giggle out of my question. The teacher responded, "Silly, a calculator is just a calculator."
This got me thinking. Could it be that mathematics
is a universal language open to everyone, regardless of money and class standing
? Could it be that Timmy had just as much of a chance with his battered old calculator as me with my shiny metal calculator
? Could what's inside be more important? I felt a slight sense of illness coming over me as the truth found its way into my body.
After class, I tracked down Timmy. "Timmy," I said. "We need to talk."
Timmy was reluctant to give me the time of day, probably for fear I would gloat my shiny metal calculator over him. I wasn't about to do that, though.
Timmy, in his nervous
little voice, explained to me, like the teacher did, that all calculators do the same thing. His broken calculator
would be just as accurate as my shiny metal one.
He didn't say it aloud, but I knew he wanted to. So I took the liberty
of saying it for him. "You mean it's what's inside that counts, right Tim?"
Timmy was again reluctant
. There was an uncertainty in his voice, his eyes, and his demeanor
. Not many people took the time to talk to poor Timmy, except for when they were making fun of him. But today was different. I didn't have any insults to bestow on the boy, just praise and a gift. Timmy and I had a common world that we shared, the world of mathematics
, which is open to everyone. I wanted to pay Timmy back as best I could, and Timmy had a lesson he still needed to learn.
Timmy responded, "Yeah, what's inside is more important."
"I learned a lesson today, Timmy," I said with a smile. "But now I see there is one for you to learn as well."
I then proceeded to pull out my shiny metal calculator. Timmy's eyes rolled back as I pulled it out, but I again smiled to reassure him. I then promptly beat
Timmy with my shiny metal calculator until I could see more of his blood
. I stopped only after I got concerned his blood might get in my calculator and gum up the buttons. I couldn't have that!
Later on, I visited Timmy in the hospital. He was once again nervous
that I had come by to see and talk to him. Still, I was delighted to see him.
"Timmy, are you feeling better?
" I asked him.
He was both angry
and about to burst into tears at the same time. "GO AWAY!" he shouted while dangling one of his battered
"Timmy, you taught me that it's what's inside that counts," I said in a sympathetic tone
, with a slight authoritarian undertone
. "But what's outside is also just as important!"
Timmy looked perplexed
by my statement, and so I enlightened him. Poor Timmy, he didn't even know that if he had tried to beat me with his broken calculator that it would have broken even further. Not to mention, the pain I'd be in would be highly questionable. However, when I unleashed the fury of my shiny metal calculator, which is both shiny and made of metal, Timmy went on a pain safari
Timmy still looked confused and angry after I explained it to him, but I understood. I was angry at first when Timmy explained the nature of mathematics
to me. He would need time to soak in his lesson. Thankfully his body was covered with reminders
As I left the hospital
, I felt the confidence and sense of pride a teacher must feel when they finally get through to their most challenged pupil. Timmy was going to be okay now, and so was I. We both learned valuable life lessons