Divide by Zero and Conquer

A student discovers the secret her teachers have been keeping from her. Enraged at being deceived, she decides to take things into her own hands and share the truth she's uncovered with other students before she's silenced by the faculty.

Divide by Zero and Conquer
Copyright 2008 by Heather Rose Brown

The tiny pane of glass rattled in its frame as I pounded on the door to room 104. The door finally opened a crack and a flustered Mister Harris peeked out. "What in the -- Melissa, is that you? Aren't you in fourth grade now? What are you doing here?"

I ignored his questions and shoved my way past him. I glanced at the chalkboard and ground my teeth at what I saw. Turning on the classroom full of third graders, I just barely managed to keep my temper under control as I asked, "So he's teaching you about division, huh?"

A couple of heads nodded. "Well," I said as I grabbed an eraser and started clearing a space for myself on the board, "I've got something to tell you that he's trying to keep from you."

A heavy hand fell on my shoulder. "Miss Anders, what do you think you're doing?"

I yanked my shoulder away and glared at my former teacher. "I'm just telling them the truth."

Mister Harris folded his arms and frowned. "What truth might that be?"

My hands were shaking, but I managed to control my voice as I asked, "What do you get when you divide by zero?"

"You can't."


I think I was almost as shocked as he was when I threw the eraser at his face. After carefully brushing chalk dust from the shoulders of his jacket, he reached for the phone on his desk and began dialing. I knew he would be calling the principal, which meant I only had a few minutes to make my point.

"Listen up," I said as I turned back to the class. "You CAN divide by zero! Now, I know you ain't been taught algebra here yet. They don't teach it in my grade neither, which is why I had to figure it out on my own. Trust me, it ain't as hard as they try to make you think. Just hang in there with me, okay?"

I felt the tiniest bit of hope when a number of the blank, confused stares turned curious. I just had to believe that curiosity would get at least a few of them to think about what I had to say. Turning back to the board, I began writing what I hoped would be a simple equation. "N, which stands for any number, divided by zero, equals infinity. Now, I know that may sound like just a lot of words, but I can prove it's true."

I began scribbling a graph and added a long, curving line. "This is called a hyperbolic curve. As you move along this graph here, dividing by smaller and smaller numbers, the line goes higher. By the time you get to zero, the line has reached infinity."

Before I could explain anything more, the classroom door swung open. The principal and the teacher of the class I was supposed to be in strode up to me. Without a word, they both grabbed me by an arm. As I was being dragged out of the classroom, I shouted, "Remember, you CAN divided by zero! It's all part of their plan to conquer free thought. Think before you believe!"




Encouraging kids to think? How horribly subversive, Heather Rose!
If we let you divide by zero, everyone will want to, and CHAOS will reign!
Contemplating infinity? Nothing good will ever come of that!
Your character is clearly some kinda dangerous malcontent.
Hummmpf! Time to nip this freaking brainiac revolution
in the bud!

I knew a couple of kids like Melissa growing up. I won't say that they taught me more
than the teachers did, but they did render my education more complete...
~~~hugs, Laika

Not so radical radical

In some ways, Melissa is a more radical, in-your-face version of me. I remember being so frustrated when my teacher told me you couldn't divide by zero, just because you couldn't. I *knew* you could, but I had no way of proving it. I spent a number of years with that bur annoying me before I actually figured out the proof.

Thank you

Thank you for the Laugh Heather. You're right! It's not about Knowledge although it has its place. It's about THINKING!
Thanks again!

Sometimes one can think too hard ...

Learning to think is good, but part of critical thinking is recognizing the "wisdom of the ages". Not everything you were taught was mutable. Every operation below is a legitimate algebraic manipulation, but GIGO applies:

1) x = y
2) x^2 = xy (multiply both sides by x)
3) x^2 - y^2 = xy - y^2 (subtract y^2 from each side)
4) (x + y)(x - y) = y(x - y) (factor)
5) x + y = y (divide out (x - y))
6) 2y = y (substitute y for x from #1)
7) 2 = 1 (What do you think of that?!)


Very Cute Girl. She Is A Handful

For some reason, I picture her parents as not knowing what to do with this very bright girl. All too often, the brightest minds are stifled by the fact that they are not challenged enough.
May Your Light Forever Shine

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