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An Algebra Story
It all started on a nice cool autumn morning on October 13, 2010. The students of Daring Academy were surprisingly calm, even though it was a testing day. The bubble of laughing teens was music to my ears as I entered the school wearing black. It was my own little joke. I was mourning because of the big tests that day. Since it was a testing day, I went to First Period THEN advisory. I was so bored out of mind. How was I going to survive today?
“Good morning, class!” A happy, cheerful voice crowed, snapping me out of my mental mourning state. I looked up to see Mrs. Slotter grinning happily at me with bright blue eyes.
“Mrs. Slotter, why are you in here? Where’s Mrs. Neal?” Silas asked from his seat next to mine. Georgia was across from me, looking extremely confused.
“Mrs. Slotter? Why are you guys in here?!” I asked. “You’re not in my advisory either!”
They looked at each other then shrugged. “We don’t know.”
Mrs. Slotter laughed. “Settle down young grasshoppers! I will be happy to explain for you!”Everyone grew silent. “Mrs. Neal, Mrs. Lee, Miss Rider, and many other teachers are unfortunately unable to join us so I will be in here to watch over your testing!” She looked extremely pleased with herself as she said this. “So, any questions?”
Jacob, in the very back with Robin, Matthew, and Jake, raised his hand and called out. “Why are they not here?”
Mrs. Slotter just shrugged. “I don’t know! THEY DIED! Or something…”
I glanced at Silas and Georgia, giving them a peculiar look.
That doesn’t sound like Mrs. Slotter, I thought.
Before anyone could say anything else, Mrs. Slotter began passing out tests and all went silent. I gulped. I had a really bad feeling about this.
“OMG! AHHHH! SPIDER! SPIDER!”
Everyone jumped up to see Mrs. Slotter screaming this and stomping her feet around. Georgia giggled. Silas was on the verge of laughing. I just stared. The small furry thing at her feet though, was not a spider. I was sure of it. It was the size of my notebook with three springy legs and skittle-like eyes. On its small round body was a white ‘3’. As Mrs. Slotter struggled to kill the thing, the spider creature leaped on the back table where Jamie, Myranda, and Kayah were sitting. The three screamed as it leaped onto Jamie.
The room gasped.
There were now three Jamies!
The Jamies looked at each other, screamed, and then began punching each other. All we could do was watch.
My mind was running turbulent. What was happening? I glanced down at my test and read:
Hmmmm, I thought, I wonder what would happen if I solved this… I began writing down the problem and thought about it. Since they were like terms, I could subtract their powers, using the shortcut Mrs. Slotter taught us, and get:
As I finished the problem, I jumped to my feet and cried: “J to the first power!”
At my words, the three Jamies stopped fighting and the two extras went into smoke.
“WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED?!” Robin yelled.
“WHAT IS THAT THING?” Matt asked, just as puzzled as everyone else.
I walked over to where the spider thing laid, squirming and wriggling, and picked it up by the legs.
“It’s definitely not a spider.” I announced.
Mrs. Slotter glared at me. “PUT THAT THING DOWN!”
A rebellious thought ran through my mind. Normally, I would’ve obeyed. But something wasn’t right. Was it a bit too strange that most of the teachers have disappeared? Wasn’t it a bit strange that Mrs. Slotter was actually furious at me? Wasn’t it weird that this creature suddenly appeared out of nowhere? Or was it just a coincidence?
Everyone gasped once again.
I backed away with the thing trying to jump on my shoulder, with everyone else getting out of their chairs to rear up on the back wall.
“You little, stupid, vile girl…” Mrs. Slotter growled with ever-so-rapidly-changing-color eyes. Her face was becoming warty and gross, drooping as if her skin was worn for thousands of years. Her chocolate hair was slowly growing long and timeless with grey streaks. What horrified me the most was her blood red eyes.
Students screamed. I was too shocked to move. Now, I definitely knew this was not the Mrs. Slotter we have grown to love.
“Give me the Power-Bug now, foolish mortal.” The now evil Mrs. Slotter croaked.
“Errrrr, no.” I held up the bug away, from out of her reach. Unfortunately, this was difficult since the crazy woman was wearing six-inch heels.
Evil Lady roared, like a real live dragon, and pulled out a round-spherical device. It looked like a big fat meatball that was the size of a softball. There was a black screen with red numbers:
That’s not the time, I screamed in thought. And why is it counting back? OH NO! IT’S NOT WHAT I THINK IT IS-!
“BOMB!” Everyone screamed.
Mass chaos broke out. People were running around in circles, screaming things that shouldn’t have been screamed. Students were trying to find places to hide or some secret escapes that never existed. Silas and Georgia just looked at me with a “PLEASE, DO SOMETHING” look that I would never forget.
I looked at the creature that the Evil Lady called “Power-Bug “and gulped. I hesitantly extended the hand with the bug in it towards the Evil Woman. The woman grinned and excitedly reached for it.
I let go of the bug and it pounced onto my shoulder.
I felt like my sides were going to split painfully in half. My head throbbed with great intensity. I was dizzily struggling to stand in one place. I felt like I was everywhere at once. What was going on? Would my plan work? Just as quick as the splitting pain came, it stopped.
Everyone gasped, including the evil and vile woman with the bomb.
I grinned. My plan was working! There was three of me! Three Lena Willows’s! I wanted to laugh. I gazed at the other two Lena’s and waved. They grinned and waved back.
“Listen up!” I cried. “We’re not going to let you leave without taking this bomb with you!” I glared at the Evil Woman. “TAKE IT OR PAY THE PRICE!”
The Vile Lady laughed darkly and then…BOOM! A flash of light blinded all three of me and my fellow classmates and she was gone in a puff of smoke. So much for making her take the bomb.
“Snap!” One of me cried.
“NOOOO!” The other cried.
“We’re dead.” Sighed Silas.
I glared at them and looked at the bomb. Georgia, Silas, the two other Lena’s, and the others crowded around me as I pressed a button on the mini keyboard and an equation appeared on the screen:
FIND THE DEGREE OF THE TERM
?X^(4 ) Y?^3
This is easy, I thought. The Degree of a Term is the sum of values of the exponents on the variables of a term. So… Four plus three is seven! I pressed the button of ‘7’and another equation popped up:
Using the distributive property, solve the equation.
Okay, I thought, First, distribute two into each of the terms. Two times ‘x’ to the second would be two ‘x’ squared. Two times two ‘y’ is four ‘y’. And three ‘x’ squared times two is six ‘x’ squared.
Now we have:
“Now we’re done!”Cheered someone in the back. I shook my head.
“No, we still have something missing. If we got it right, the bomb would’ve stopped ticking by now.”
“Then what?” Asked one of me.
I thought about it then gasped. “We forgot to combine like terms! See? Two ‘x’ squared plus six ‘x’ squared makes eight ‘x’ squared. Since four ‘y’ has no other like terms we just add it to the 8 ‘x’ squared which makes…”I typed in the answer and showed my classmates:
“Oh!” Exclaimed the mob of students.
I grinned then frowned as the screen began being filled up by more numbers and letters.
Define the following terms as a polynomial. If it is, then is it a mono, bi, or trinomial?
“Okay, I know what the first one is!” Georgia exclaimed. “It’s a binomial because three ‘x’ and two ‘y’ are both terms and are connected by addition. So therefore, it is a binomial.”
“Yeah.” Silas agreed. “Number two is a trinomial. All three of those terms are well, terms. They can either be numbers, integers, variables, variables with whole number exponents, or/and products of variables and numbers. Plus, they do not have any negative exponents.”
“That’s good! But what about the last one?” I asked.
Everyone grew silent. I sighed and glanced at the problem once again, explaining my thoughts. “Well, it’s not a term because there is no way one can divide ‘x’. AND, it is not connected by addition or subtraction.”
At my words, the screen rapidly changed again and new problem aroused in front of our very eyes.
Factor out this polynomial:
“What the heck is factoring?” Jamie asked astonished.
“Factoring is breaking a term into pieces that when multiplied, gives us back the term we broke apart. Here, I’ll show you.” I seized a test from one of the tables and began writing down the factors of 12x with Silas’ pencil.
12x can be made by the following numbers and variables:
1,2,3,4,6,12,x are factors.So,we draw it out like this:
“Oh, hey, that kind of reminds me of the distributive property. But the opposite.” Jamie said.
I nodded. “Yes, distributing is distributing things using multiplication. Factoring is taking things apart using division. They’re inverses.”
“But what does this have to do with factoring seven ‘x’ subtracting twenty one ‘y’?” Myranda inquired.
“Well,” I began. “There are two different ways you could do this. You could use the Division rules or Multiplication properties. Personally, I like using division because it’s quicker. But multiplication shows you the factors.” I wrote the problem out in both ways to show everyone.
“The trick for division is thinking ‘What can I divide both sides by to have them come out evenly?’” I explained as I pressed my fingers onto the mini keyboard of the bomb to type in the answer.
“Is that it?” Robin asked hopefully.
I shrugged and stared at the screen. “The bomb’s timer disappeared. But that doesn’t mean it stopped ticking too.”
As if on cue, a series of questions appeared on the minuscule screen.
Identify the coefficient:
Are the terms like?
4y and ?7y?^3
Simplify the following expressions:
((3^2 x^3)/(3^4 y^5 ) )^0
((?3y?^3 x^1)/(y^2 x^1 ) )^2
Find the Area of the square:
“Oh my gosh, this is worse than the actual test!” One of me exclaimed. The other me nodded rigorously and sighed.
“We’re doomed!” Cried the mob of classmates.
“We’re not doomed!” I snapped. “This is so easy. Why are you worried?”I pointed to the first problem and explained. “A coefficient is a number that multiplies a variable. So three would be the answer! See? Three is multiplying ‘e’.” I moved onto the next problem. “The answer is no because they don’t have the same degree. Yes, they have the same variable but for this problem, it is not enough. “I went on babbling about the third question. “ This is also very easy. Look, there is a zero exponent on the outside of the parentheses. You know what that means? It’s the Zero Property of Exponents so all of this equals one! Piece of pie!”
“But what about the second one? There’s no zero there!” Matt asked.
“It’s still very simple. You use the distributive property to multiply the outer two with all the exponents inside the parentheses. But wait, this is what people often miss… There is also a regular whole number too. You square that number. So you would get this.” I scribbled it down on the paper and showed the group.
(?9y?^6 x^2)/(y^4 x^2 )
“So we’re done?” Someone in the middle of the crowd asked.
“Nope, we still have to subtract the powers to get…” I scrawled the answer down and held it up to show them.
“So how did you get eight?” Silas asked.
“There’s a hidden number one in front of ‘y’ to the fourth.” I answered. “Or what Mrs. Slotter would’ve had called it the hidden, magical, mystical number one. You would have to subtract those to simplify the answer. You can drop the zero exponent if you want but I left it on to show you what I did.”
“What about the area of a circle problem?” Georgia asked.
I glanced down at the problem again.
Find the Area of the square:
“Well first, let’s find the ‘r’ of the equation. The ‘r’ stands for the radius. But the circle only shows the diameter. The radius is half of the diameter so what is half of six?”
“THREE!” Came the answer.
“Right, so what’s that squared?”
“NINE!” The group chorused.
I nodded, grinning. “Very good. So if we multiply that by pi, we’d get twenty eight point twenty six units squared.”
“Wow, how did you do that?”
I laughed. “I plugged in the numbers and just did the order of operations, PEMDAS, or ‘Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.’” I typed this on the keyboard and pressed enter. “Let’s decode this bomb.”
As I said this, the bomb began vibrating, the screen flashing colors that dazzled many eyes. The Power-Bug, which was on my shoulder still and I had completely forgotten, leaped off my shoulder and the two extra Lena’s went into smoke. The Power-Bug skittered into my book bag on my lap and hid, making high-pitched, fearful squeaks. I glanced at everyone else whom began screaming once again. The bomb made an awful shudder and a robotic voice spoke:
“Operating portal to Mathmania.” It paused as a huge circle appeared in the midst of Mrs. Neal’s whiteboard and began sucking everything in. “This bomb will self destruct in 20 seconds.” It began counting down. I gasped and leaped to my feet, pointing to the portal that just sucked in the table I was just sitting at.
“Everyone inside now!”
“Are you crazy? Do you know what’s in there?” Robin argued.
“No, but would you rather blow up?”
This seemed to make up everyone else’s minds. Everyone began racing in at the count of nine. I rushed everyone inside and turned to gaze back for anyone else that had not entered the portal. Silas, Georgia, and I remained.
“Do you think Mrs. Slotter would be okay?” Georgia asked uncertainly.
“I don’t know but we have to go NOW.”
The two nodded and ran inside.
I looked back once again to hear the robotic voice say: “Two.”I sighed and jumped inside, screaming as I spiraled into a never-ending fall that engulfed me into eternal darkness. “One.”
To be continued…