Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Missing Side: A Math Story

In my Quantitative Reasoning class, we have to do a few mini-projects. My professor gives us some options from which to choose, and for this most recent project, one of the options was to write a creative story involving the concepts of Chapter 4.

Yes, please.

Here's my story:

Once upon a time in the land of Triangula, there lived two young boys named Side A and Side B. These boys, who were twins, lived with their parents on Right Angle Street. They were very nice young men. They did their chores without being asked, they were very good students in their fifth grade class at Triangula Elementary, and in their spare time, they volunteered at the recycling center and helped old ladies cross the street. Yes, Side A and Side B lived a quiet, happy life as model citizens. But unbeknownst to them, Side A and Side B had a secret.

You see, Side A and Side B were actually triplets. They had been born, along with their sister, on a dark, stormy night ten years prior to our story. Being triplets, the babies had come early and were having a few problems breathing on their own, so they were given adjoining beds in the NICU. Their parents, Ed and Dolores, who were so happy to finally have children, beamed with pride on their three newborns as they watched them through the glass. Satisfied that their children were in good hands with the good doctors and nurses at Triangula Medical Center, Ed and Dolores retreated to their room to get some much-needed rest.

But not all of the nurses at TMC were good. One in particular, Nurse Snatchit, was a newcomer to town. The chief resident had been reluctant to hire her, given her sketchy résumé, but there was a shortage of nurses and TMC badly needed the help. Nurse Snatchit happened to pull the night shift, and, like all the other staff, fell instantly in love with the tiny triplets. She had always wanted a daughter, but, alas, had never been able to have children of her own. So she gazed longingly at the three sleeping newborns and, as the rain lashed against the NICU windows, she hatched a devious plan. Snatchit waited until she was all alone with the babies, and then, ever so gently and quietly, she picked up the baby girl, wrapped her in a blanket, and stole off into the night.

Ed and Dolores hired the best private investigators to find their daughter, but after years of searching, they never found even a hint as to her whereabouts. They wanted their remaining children to be happy and well-adjusted, so they decided to keep their loss to themselves. They never told Side A and Side B about their sister, Side C.

One Tuesday afternoon, Side A and Side B sat in their favorite class, Math. They avidly listened as their teacher, Mrs. Right, taught them about a man named Pythagorus and his followers. They were spellbound as she explained to them the Pythagorean Theorem. They were transfixed as they came to understand the beauty of the fact that, in a right triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the length of the other two sides. Such beauty! Such poetry! They boys knew that forever after, their lives would be impacted by this knowledge. But little did they know how much.

A week later, Mrs. Right introduced a new student to the class. Clara had come to them from the far away land of Hide-away. She had recently suffered the tragic loss of her mother and had come to live with a new guardian here in Triangula. Side A and Side B felt deeply sorry for their new classmate, but as they talked it over during lunch, they discovered that they both felt a deep connection to Clara—a connection that surpassed childish sympathy. They went home that night and told their parents about their new classmate, but didn’t mention the connection they felt. Surely parents wouldn’t understand a thing like that. The boys themselves didn’t understand it, and they didn’t want the folks to think they had a crush on Clara. Parents could be so weird sometimes.

Side A and Side B became fast friends with Clara, and always spent lunch and recess together. Clara, it turned out, also loved Math, and the three children would often call each other at night to review their notes from class. They didn’t, however, play together after school because the boys spent much of their free time at the recycling center and helping old ladies cross the street. They boys continued to feel a deeper relationship with Clara, but they just couldn’t figure out what it might be. So Ed and Dolores heard much about Clara but never met her, until the night of the end-of-year school program.

Side A and Side B had been given speaking parts, along with Clara, in the presentation of “A Condensed History of Triangula,” and they excitedly took their places next to their friend for the opening scene. As the curtain opened on the three youngsters, Ed and Dolores let out surprised yelps. Clara was the spitting image of their long-lost daughter! Even more, as she was standing between Side A and Side B, they couldn’t help but notice the trio made a perfect right triangle! Mrs. Right, noticing the buzz in the audience, called for a brief intermission and asked Ed and Dolores to come backstage and speak with the children. As the parents rushed to stage left, they decided to tell their boys the story of their missing sibling. Side A, Side B, and Clara listened as Ed told the whole story. When he was finished, Dolores told the children that they suspected Clara was their missing Side C. “If only we had some way to prove whether you are our missing child!” Dolores cried to Clara.

Side B spoke up quickly. “But mom, we do!” He quickly explained to her what they had learned about the Pythagorean Theorem earlier in the school year. Shaking with excitement, Ed pulled a tape measure out of his pocket (Ed was in construction and could often be counted on to carry random tools with him), and measured the three children. Side A was length 3, Side B was length 4, and Clara was length 5. Side B wrote down the theorem, and plugged in the children’s heights. Sure enough, Side A’s height squared plus Side B’s height squared equaled Clara’s height squared. She was their hypotenuse, their missing link! The family embraced, crying and laughing, relieved to finally all be back together. And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.


Chris said...

A creative story for your math class - go figure. I laughed, of course!


Angela said...

Love it!