The Boy Who Conquered Fractions

They came to me, the children

dragging chains of failure at school

scowling with attitude

inured to criticism, teasing, even anger

and yet eager.

This boy was nine.

One day he gave me a note from his teacher.

who complained in cramped script that

'this child's continued inattention to lessons

and general disruptive behaviour in the classroom

are unacceptable: 'Something has to be done!'

The lad knew what it said, but he wasn't fussed.

Just the 'same-o – same-o' and who cared!

At nine years old he was sprouting like a weed

part dynamo part zombie

and pretty much dismissive of everything

except football - and poetry!

Poetry was integral to my teaching.

At any time a poem might be tossed in - just for fun.

The kids loved them, especially this lad.

He enjoyed the rhythmic beat - like running

and words  in his mind - like candy in his mouth.


One day it was Maths and he was working with fractions

on a difficult idea: division!

Division of fractions is like turning math somersaults:

You must understand the concept to trust the calculation.

We drew pictures and cut paper to bits all over the table.

We discussed, dissected diagrams and cut more paper.

He struggled; he did not give up; and he got it!

Solidly - never to be fooled again - GOT IT!

We were excited - 'stomp feet clap hands' exuberant.

Across his paper in big blue letters I wrote: 'BLOOMIN' BRILLIANT!'

His face blazed with pleasure.

Holding the paper in his teeth he jammed stuff into his bag 

and skipped out the door

waving those conquered fractions in his free hand

like a hero's flag.

Up the walk he hipped and hopped

inventing a loud rap of 'Bloomin' Brilliant!'

for the whole world to hear.

I often wondered what my neighbours thought I did to those kids

or what I put in their apple juice.

But all I offered was the sweet taste of success.

And who doesn't blow trumpets for that!


◄ Never trust a lover who ...

I think that children ... ►


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Dave Morgan

Fri 25th Nov 2016 22:04

Cynthia this is a rather beautiful and uplifting poem which in a nutshell encompasses a whole curriculum of teacher education... that which is no longer promoted or which teachers feel unable to implement in their attempt to force the largest number of kids through the SAT mousehole as quickly as possible. Why not just take the time to show them the door? It's big enough for all. Lovely.

Travis Brow

Wed 23rd Nov 2016 07:02

Cynthia, I can identify with the sentiment you express so well; a topic of the utmost importance. I help my seven year old nephew with his homework and on those occasions when he figures something out for himself, a certain kind of smile plays about his mouth; a display of nascent pride. Congratulations on POTW, and more so on the help and inspiration you've provided for those like the lad in your poem.

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Laura Taylor

Fri 18th Nov 2016 13:26

LOVED hearing this at Sale, Cynthia! 😃

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Trevor Alexander

Sat 12th Nov 2016 18:24

Heart-warming tale. Must be so rewarding. I guess some plants don't thrive in a forced-flowering environment.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Sat 12th Nov 2016 17:07

As a a private tutor, I have taught a range of students from Age 5 up to adults Age 55 who felt they could still 'learn to read' (which they did).

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