This afternoon, one of my math students slipped a little surprise into my hand.
"This is for you," she quietly told me. "I made it."
And when I examined this little gift, a giant grin spread across my face.
In order to explain, let me share a bit of back story.
* * * * *
Algebra is not a subject that is easily mastered, and I push my students hard. Therefore, I've learned that it's important to share some empathy and compassion with my young mathematicians. Every now and then, I'll take a few minutes of class time to commiserate about the brutal work load and the inherent frustration in working algebra problems for an hour a day when there are oh, so many other wonderful and exciting things to do in this life.
Ain't nothing wrong with a little complaining from time to time.
And I often share with my students the story of a former student named Chich who took his pent-up mathematical frustrations to a whole 'nother level.
At the end of a long and algebraically challenging school year, Chich used his own money to buy an old, inexpensive copy of our textbook. At home, he laid the open book in the grate of the fireplace. And then he lit his book on fire and watched that sucker burn.
Oh, yes, he did.
He even messaged me a photo so I could enjoy the carnage with my own two eyes.
And while that may sound petty and wasteful to the average adult (who has probably not slogged through many algebra problems in recent years). I applauded this act of catharsis and often encourage my students to fantasize about doing the same.
This story has touched a particular nerve in a current pair of sister students and the sweet satisfaction of lighting up a copy of the text has become an ongoing topic of discussion. They've even formulated a tag line for their vision: Buy it and burn it. And I daresay the odds are good that another ancient copy of this book will soon go up in flames.
* * * * *
^ So now you will understand my delight as I realized that my gift - a diminutive and precise copy of our class text - was actually a tiny box that slid open.
It did not escape my attention that this was a match box.
^ Inside I found two wooden matches and a small collection of white pages bound together with a staple. I saw writing on the cover but couldn't make out the message until I opened the box completely.
^ Buy it and burn it.
Are you kidding me.
So adorable and clever that I could barely stand it.
That will just be my amazing algebra students, Esther and Evie, celebrating the end of their studies.
Buy it and burn it, indeed.
* * * * *
Read more stories about my life as a math teacher: