'The Boy Who Conquered Fractions' by Cynthia Buell Thomas is Write Out Loud Poem of the Week
‘The Boy Who Conquered Fractions’ by Cynthia Buell Thomas is Write Out Loud’s new Poem of the Week. The poem tells how a nine-year-old boy - “part dynamo part zombie” - whose behaviour is described by his class teacher as unacceptable is cajoled into understanding division of fractions, and what this does to his sense of self-esteem. He likes poetry, too: “Up the walk he hipped and hopped / inventing a loud rap of 'Bloomin' Brilliant!' / for the whole world to hear.” Cynthia is a long-standing member of Write Out Loud, and recently shared this poem at Write Out Loud Sale’s open mic night.
THE BOY WHO CONQUERED FRACTIONS
by Cynthia Buell Thomas
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 Math 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!