Last day in the math class. They had a test. I didn't plan it that way; that's just how it worked out.
Brandon was one of the reasons I modified the seating chart. He and three others sat in the back far corner, getting into their own conversations while I went over the material. They knew it all already. They took algebra last year. Never mind that they failed it--the reason they had to repeat it this year.
Brandon, by sheer luck of the draw, ended up in a front row seat.
I passed out the tests and they got started. Brandon raised his hand.
"Am I supposed to add these?"
The test was on exponents, and knowing whether to add or multiply was the point of the question. I replied with a, "That's what you're supposed to know," and I moved on.
Brandon called me over a few more times. All his questions had to do with how to do the problems.
"Is this one right?"
I did not answer.
The fifth time he called me over, his neighbor remarked, "It's a test. She's not going to answer you."
(I will clarify directions. Sometimes the copy is bad or something is unclear. There can be mistakes on the test. So, I do respond to raised hands during a test. To a point.)
Brandon was one of the last students done. He spent ten minutes checking over his answers.
After I had all the tests, I released the students from the imposed silence. I gathered the tests, paperclipped them, and put them away. Brandon pulled out his notes.
"Wait. Can I check something on my test?"
He explained that in the rush to finish, he had written the wrong answer for a problem. "I did it right, but I just wrote the wrong thing in the answer column." So, I said I'd check.
Under it he wrote 1/-2. In the answer column, he did indeed write -2.
The answer should have been 1/2. I would have given it to him except for that pesky negative sign. (I spent quite a bit of time explaining that a negative exponent means "take the reciprocal" and that the resulting answer is NOT negative. Adding the negative sign makes the answer wrong.)
I informed Brandon that he got it wrong. I explained why.
"Let me see... No, it's right. See, it's positive. Right. There."
As he leaned over me with his pencil and added a small vertical line over the top of the small horizontal one already on his paper.
Geez. Does he think I'm that stupid? I marked it wrong right then and there.
And after all that, it turns out that Brandon only missed three or four questions on the test. He got a B.