Alex’s Math Problem

It was only three days until the start of the school year, and Alex was nervous.

“What if I’m not as smart as the other kids?” he had asked his mother over dinner.

“Oh, nonsense,” she had responded. Of course you’re as smart as them!

Alex was entering the third grade, and he was nervous about beginning harder math classes. Addition and subtraction had been hard enough—could he really learn multiplication?

“But I don’t get as good of grades as them,” he said.

“Well, you’ll just have to work hard is all,” she said soothingly. “I’ll help you.”

Alex knew she would. Already, throughout the summer, he and his mother had been practicing math problems in workbooks and on online games. He knew he had gotten better, but would his work pay of?

On the night before the first day of school, Alex couldn’t sleep. He had been practicing math problems until his bedtime, trying to get a head start. And now, all that was running through his head were numbers.

I need to get some sleep, he urged himself, so I can be ready for my first day. He sat up in bed and opened a book. Surely, reading a bit would calm his mind.

The next thing he knew, the sun was shining through his windows, and his book lay open on his stomach. He had fallen asleep alright—and now it was here. It was the first day of school!

He bolted out of bed and threw on his clothes.

His mother was already in the kitchen, waiting for him. A plate of eggs and toast was at his spot on the table, with a glass of orange juice nearby.

“Eat up,” his mother said. “Your brain is going to need energy today!”

“I’m a little nervous,” he said as he at his eggs.

“Oh, that’s normal sweetheart,” his mother said. “I promise you every other kid is just as nervous and excited as you are.”

“Really?” Alex asked. He thought he was the only one!

“Absolutely!” his mother said truthfully. “Everyone is always nervous for their first day. Even I was nervous for my first day at my job!”

Wow, Alex thought. He didn’t know his mom got nervous, too!

“But trust me, honey,” she continued. “You’ll do fine. And if you’re worried about math, you and I practiced all summer. You’re ready, sweetie.”

She kissed him on the head.

The drop off went smoothly. Alex’s nerves turned immediately into excitement when he saw his friends. They talked excitedly about their summers and vacations, and wondered what their teacher would be like.

“We have to learn multiplication this year,” Steven groaned. “How are we going to do that?”

Alex’s mother’s words flashed through his head. She was right. He wasn’t the only one who was nervous.

Their teacher greeted them with a smile and led them into the classroom. It was decorated with the usual cheerful classroom decorations, and each desk had a piece of paper with their names on it, indicating where they would sit. Alex found his seat right at the front of the classroom. He took a deep breath. He hated sitting at the front.

It’ll be ok, he said, taking his seat. You’ve got this.

The morning went smoothly, with each classmate around the room stating their name and a fun fact about themselves. It was after lunch, however, that Alex’s moment came.

They had just taken their seats in the cool classroom, a welcome change from the hot sun on the playground.

Alex took a sip of water from the reusable bottle he always carried. Then—he noticed what was written on the board.

“Math Review”.

His heart pounded. His hands grew sweaty.

“Alright, class,” the teacher was saying. “Before we learn new material, we are going to do a quick math review. Raise your hand if you know the answer to this problem. 2+2.”

Four, quickly came a voice from Alex’s head as his classmate raised a hand. He blinked. Well, that one was easy. Everyone knew that.

“Five plus eight.”

Thirteen, came the voice. Alex relaxed a bit. He knew the answers!

Then, the teacher asked a tricky one. “Fourteen plus twenty-one.”

The class was silent.

Alex took a moment, and then the answer popped into his head. Thirty-five.

He snuck a glance behind him. No one was raising their hands. No one knew the answer.

Slowly, his hand raised into the air.

“Yes, Alex!” the teacher said kindly.

“Th..thirty-five,” Alex said softly.

“Very good!” the teacher called. “Looks like we have a math star in the room!”

Alex beamed. He wasn’t a math star last year. But his hard work had paid off.

Practice makes perfect, he thought to himself. And he didn’t have any intention to stop practicing.