Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel. Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off.

Proverbs 13: 10-11 The Message

There was a math teacher who had the fortunate job of teaching algebra to teenagers. There were many questions and groans, and many more bored faces. So, one day the teacher bought some bags of candy and brought it to class. The teacher hid the candy in a desk. The first class had twelve students, three rows of four. When the students came in and settled down, the teacher asked a question.

“Can anyone tell me why there are different methods to solve for X and why you have to show your work to solve it?” One student in the back raised their hand.

“Because math is torture.” Another blurted out. Some of the students giggled, the student with their hand raised waved their hand frantically.

“Maybe,” the teacher shrugged. “What’s your theory?” The teacher nodded to the student with their hand raised.

“Math is like a puzzle! There are different ways to solve it!” The student said proudly as other students rolled their eyes.

“Yes. It is like a puzzle, but puzzles sometimes can get confusing and overwhelming. Let’s simplify it.” The teacher got a trashcan and scrap paper. The teacher put the trashcan a few feet from the front row. Then out came the candy.

“If you can get the paper in the trashcan,” The teacher crumpled a piece of scrap paper and threw it in the trashcan. “You can get a candy.” The teacher opened the candy bag and put one in their pocket. “Got it?”

The students nodded. The teacher crumpled up the paper and threw it to the first student. The student threw it and made it. The teacher tossed the student a candy and praised the student. The second student didn’t make it and didn’t get any candy but the teacher praised their effort. On and on it went until the middle-row, someone stood up and threw it. When that kid made it, the rest in the middle row stood up to throw the paper, one even took a step forward. So, when the back-row’s turn came, they started to take steps forward. Then it came time for the student who answered to throw the paper. The student walked up to the teacher and asked,

“Is this okay?”

“The goal is to get the paper in the trashcan.” The teacher said. So, the student kept walking and when he got to the bin, he threw the paper in. “Good job.”  The teacher praised and handed a piece of candy to the student.

“What? You could’ve just got up and put it in there!” Cried one of the kids that missed.

“Yep. The goal was to put the paper in the trash. I didn’t give you limitations on how.” The teacher said and began to pick up the trash.

“But you threw it in the trash yourself! How were we supposed to know that we could?”

“So, because I showed you one method of throwing trash, that’s the only method?” The students went silent at the teacher’s question.

“I showed you one way to do something.” The teacher explained and faced the class. “That was my choice. But from what I showed, you chose to follow. What we show, in life or math, is what people can choose to follow or not. When those of you stood to help yourselves have a better chance, those after you learned from what you showed. That is why we show our work, so those after us can learn. And then, from the work shown, someone was bold enough to ask me about a different way. If any of you did come up and throw the paper away, I would not have stopped you because I was focused on the goal, throwing the paper away. You all were so focused on the reward, that the goal seemed harder than it actually was. Math is numbers and complicated processes. But looking at the reward of a good grade or just passing this class won’t help you learn. Solving and focusing on the current goal, the current problem, might make the task a lot easier than you think.” The teacher put the rest of the scrap paper in the trash.

“Now, who’s ready to learn?”

Sadly, this did not happen to me, but if it ever happened to you, great! And for teachers who do this, thank you! This makes math a bit easier. But this story came to me as I was studying Proverbs. God is our teacher as much as he is our God. Don’t ever be afraid to ask God if you have the right answer. Also, don’t assume that you have the right answer, because while the answer might be right, the method might have been done wrong (I tend to be in this category). Thanks for joining me for the first ever story time.

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