Meet Me Here

I snapped this photo on my walk — the beautiful trail is just behind where I live. K.D. Lang was singing Hallelujah in my ears. My worries softened, my anger slipped. Then I thought about my thirty minutes or so with him and smiled. I needed to focus on the small blessings, and there are so many.


He jiggles the locked door handle, eager to come in. I stand and extend my hand to shake his and introduce myself. His teacher had warned me of his puppy eyes and that he liked to talk. After some chitchat, I ask him as I write on a piece of paper, “You go to the store and there’s a sign that says three apples for two dollars. Say you want to get six apples, how much would that cost?” I slide the pen and paper toward him.

Me: What’s your favorite kind of apple?

Him: The green kind.

Me: Like Granny Smith? That’s a bit tart for me. I like Fuji apples.

He looks at the paper, his mind is thinking, his head bounces a little, his fingers count. He’s taking his time. I say, “Let me know when you’re ready to share. You can think out loud too.” I repeat the problem, but immediately I wish I would just shut up.

Him: Nine

Me: Is that how much it would cost… to buy six apples?

Him: Yeah. Nine.

Me: Show me how you got that. How you got nine dollars.

Him: I added six and three.

Me: Okay. Why did you choose addition?

Him: Because it’s the easiest. Easier than division.

Me: Oh, division is harder for me too… Is nine dollars a reasonable answer? Does that sound about right? Three apples for two dollars…

He nods his head reluctantly.

Me: I notice that you did not use all the information in the problem.

He does not know what I mean. I refer to the paper and explain that the problem has three pieces of information, “You told me that you added the three and six. Is there something else in the problem that you did not use?” He admits that he did not use the $2.00.

Him: Eleven.

Me: How did you get eleven?

Him: Nine plus two is eleven.

Me: I see. Ha! You do like to add! So, if the store sells three apples for two dollars, then for six apples, it would cost eleven dollars? Does that sound about right?

He shakes his head more convincingly, “No… That’s not right.”

I scan the teacher’s small office. On her desk is a cup of thin colored markers. I grab her yellow pad of post-it notes too and tear each one into fourths. I mark $1 on six of these and slide them over to him. I also stick a post-it note on the cup that says 3 apples for $2.00.

Me: Sorry I don’t have real apples. Let’s pretend these markers are apples, and I’m the store owner. How much money do you have there?

Him: Six dollars.

Me: Cool. Okay, buy some apples from me.

He chooses three markers carefully, picking his favorite colors apparently. I ask him for payment, and he hands me two $1 notes. Pointing to the paper still in front of him, I say, “Remember the original problem. Tell me about the problem again.” He looks at the paper and the markers and money notes in front of him, “I need three more apples.”

He again carefully selects three more markers from the cup. Without prompting, he gives me two more $1 notes.

He bounces more visibly in his seat, “Four dollars. Six apples cost four dollars!”

I ask for a fist bump, “You’re awesome. I’d love to see you again.” He smiles wider and nods.


Before meeting him, his teacher had shared that last year when he was in sixth grade, he’d met his goal of “multiplying multi-digit numbers.” I didn’t really know what this meant. I had no context and did not have the student in front of me. So I asked if I could meet him.

I thanked her for inviting me in and said the only thing that came to mind, “Please meet him where he’s at.”

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