Student Messages Police for Help with a Math Problem

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child typing on keyboard

Staff at a Marion, Ohio police department went beyond the call of duty when an elementary school student contacted them with a Facebook message, asking for help with their school work.

messageLena Draper, ten years old, did not know how to answer the question: (8 + 29) x 15.

“I’m having trouble with my homework. Could you help me?” Lena asked.

Lieutenant BJ Gruber, 42, despite not having spent time in a fifth-grade math classroom for a few decades, took a crack at the formula.

He responded by telling the girl to “do the calculations in parentheses first.”

In an interview with CNN, Gruber said the girl’s request “really did not seem incredibly strange to me,” although it was the first time the department had received a math question on its Messenger account.

After helping with that first question, the student then asked how to solve: (90 + 27) + (29 + 15) x 2.

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Gruber replied again, saying: “Take the answer from the first parenthesis plus the answer from the second parenthesis and multiply that answer by two. Work from left to right doing the work within the first parenthesis.”

But that was actually incorrect.

Lena’s mom, Molly Draper, posted the message exchange on Facebook and a friend of his pointed out the order of the officer’s response was actually wrong.

“But, after doing the parentheses, you really should multiply the (29 + 15) by 2, and then add (90 + 27),” wrote Amy Pelfrey. “I’m glad they were willing to help! But multiplication goes before the addition!” She added.

Gruber admits that he was more into history and social studies back in school, laughly admitting math was not his best class back then. He said he is happy that the error was discovered before Draper turned in her homework at school.

Lena’s mom said she thought it was wonderful that the officer took the time to work with her daughter, adding “It shows a commitment to build relationships and to trust in the community.”


Photo (cropped): Chris Parfitt (cc)