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All the Right Angles

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Abstract

Friday evaporated in a haze. As Missy donned her final mathfashion #OOTD—a mash-up of a blue t-shirt emblazoned with gold-sequined math symbols, the denim skirt she created from jeans pockets, paired with leggings and her favorite black trainers, she tried to recall where she had spent her time on Friday. Between cramming for the competition and scrimmaging with the math team, all she could remember was the excitement building up and then just waking up today and feeling slightly out of sorts.

Friday evaporated in a haze. As Missy donned her final mathfashion OOTD—a mash-up of a blue t-shirt emblazoned with gold-sequined math symbols, the denim skirt she created from jeans’ pockets, paired with leggings and her ­favorite black trainers—she tried to recall where she had spent her time on Friday. Between cramming for the competition and scrimmaging with the math team, all she could remember was the excitement building up and then just waking up today and feeling slightly out of sorts.

“Missy? You ready?” Mr. Maker called from the hallway. “We should get going!”

Missy was ready. She checked her look and re-tied her ponytail in a position lower than usual. Her ponytail hung at the back of her head right below the equator where she imagined the Indian Ocean might be. She thought the low ponytail made her appear more serious and ready for the competition. One quick selfie and she was off. “Coming, Dad!” she shouted as she closed her bedroom door behind her.

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Missy hopped into the front seat and buckled her seat belt. Ever since she started middle school, Missy had wanted to ride up front. Mr. Maker winked at her. “Nice try, kiddo. Back seat, please. When you reach five feet tall, we’ll negotiate. Until then, the back seat is safest.” Mr. Maker smiled and waited for Missy to exit.

“Oh, Dad,” Missy whined as she complied. Missy unbuckled and opened the front door. She settled into the back seat, buckled up and looked up into the rearview mirror. “Okay. Ready, Dad.”

“We’re off!” Mr. Maker declared and started the car.

In the car, Missy posted her selfie to her SocialMe timeline and felt a twang in her heart when she read a post on her page: CHAPS Mathletes make way—Missy-Math-Maker saves the day! Missy had worked hard to ­separate herself from that name. She wanted to be known as a fashionista, not a math geek.

That post was followed by replies from her friends.

Go Missy! said Kate.

You got this, girl, from Danny.

Missy, you are a math wizard, said Mahdavi.

CHAPS for the win! from Paula.

Missy was torn. The use of the Missy-Math-Maker nickname she had been bullied with all through elementary school felt like an assault. She had worked so hard this year to escape that moniker. On the other hand, the post was praising her. Wasn’t it? Still, her spirits lifted and she felt exalted by her friends. “Hmmm. Missy-Math-Maker: M-cubed,” Missy said, embracing the dreaded label and rebranding herself in mathematical terms.

Ready! Willing! And able! Missy responded and signed M 3 then she turned off her phone and concentrated on the ride through her town. She counted the street signs and imagined mixing them all up. She wondered if returning residents would still be able to find their way home.

It was a quick ride to the CHAPS campus early on a Saturday morning. Normally, the ride to school took more than thirty minutes. On school days, the roads were clogged with traffic and her school bus made eight stops along the way.

“Wow,” Missy commented. She looked at her phone to confirm the time. “We got here in twelve minutes!”

Mr. Maker winked at Missy. “No delays today,” he replied. Mr. Maker was dressed as usual in a button-down shirt, bow tie and jeans. Missy thought of that as her dad’s uniform, though on the weekends, he wore sneakers instead of loafers. That was his casual look.

Missy wondered if her sense of style had anything to do with her dad’s unique daily uniform. He always left the house put together and even his most casual outfits included a button-down shirt and a bow tie. Missy gathered up her papers and pencil from her seat taking her time as her dad parked the car. Missy looked in the rearview mirror and waited to catch her dad’s eye. Missy felt a fluttering in her stomach and caught her breath. “Dad? I’m a bit nervous.”

Mr. Maker turned around in his seat. “Here’s a question: Why is six afraid of seven?” he asked.

“Huh?” Missy responded with a confused look on her face. “What? Dad, what are you talking about?”

“Because . . .” Mr. Maker dragged out the word to build suspense before responding, “seven ATE nine! HAH!”

Missy rolled her eyes at her father and smiled in spite of herself.

“You’ll be great, kiddo!” Mr. Maker said. “A little nervous energy makes you sharp. Just have fun and remember this: math is awesome and so is Missy Maker!”

Missy repeated that mantra under her breath as she opened the car door and headed toward the auditorium. “Math is awesome and so is Missy Maker. Math is awesome and so is Missy Maker. Math is awesome and so is Missy-MATH-Maker!” Missy chanted to herself.

Mr. Maker and Missy got out of the car together. “I’ll meet you after the ­competition,” Mr. Maker said. Missy noticed the school parking lot was filling up with buses and cars filled with students from other schools. Students were looking around trying to figure out where to go to register for the event.

They approached the side door to the building, Danny came running out, calling to Missy. He was wearing a band uniform jacket and gym shorts with flip-flops. Mr. Maker kissed Missy on the cheek.

“Whoa!” Mr. Maker said as Danny approached them.

“Hey, Mr. Maker,” Danny said.

“Hey to you, Danny.”

Danny stopped and looked Missy over from head to toe. He snapped his ­fingers in a Z configuration. “You look snaz-zy! And, thank heaven you’re here!” Danny said, his southern accent exaggerated to the fullest extent. “I was waiting for you, Missy! We’ve had a wardrobe malfunction and I know you can help.”

“I’ll see you after the competition,” Mr. Maker told Missy and headed to the main entrance. Danny took Missy’s hand and pulled her into the building and down the hall toward the band room.

When they entered the band room, Missy saw articles of clothing and pieces of band uniforms strewn all over. The band director was in a tizzy ­directing students and tuning instruments. He was so busy reviewing the band ­choreography and marching drills that he barely noticed the chaos in the room. The director had on a full band uniform including a tall stovepipe hat, which seemed ready to fall from its perch if not for the chin strap holding it in place. Other band members were in various states of dress, some were playing their instruments, and others were shouting to each other trying to locate a full uniform. They looked so motley and mismatched. Suddenly, Missy’s jitters were gone. She loved the chaos and clutter; it magically calmed her nerves.

Mahdavi ran past them and out the door. She wore a white tank top tucked into her black band uniform pants.

Thomas Barker, Missy’s neighbor and friend since the first grade, wore a full uniform, with the red and gold jacket hanging open. With only two buttons, there was no way to keep it closed. No two band members seemed to be dressed alike. Clearly, the band was in trouble.

“How can I help?” Missy asked, just as Mahdavi came back into the room ­pulling Megan and Kim beside her. Megan’s hair was braided from the left side above her ear all the way across her forehead and tucked in place in the back of her right ear, wrapping her head like a crown. She wore black jeans and a pink t-shirt with heart-shaped polka dots. Kim was dressed like a banker, Missy thought, taking in the black suit and light blue blouse, and her hair was pulled back in a neat, low ponytail anchored just north of Antarctica.

“I found them!” Mahdavi, smiling from ear to ear, said to Danny and Missy. Megan and Kim looked shocked as they took in the scene. Kim let go of Mahdavi’s hand and covered her ears.

“Our new band uniforms were supposed to be here in time for today, but they never arrived,” Danny explained, shouting over the cacophony. “Our band director was sure they would be here on time since the uniform company assured us they would be here this morning. We just found out that the plane they were on got delayed. Now, they say the uniforms won’t get here until NEXT week!” Danny took a deep breath and continued, “Anyway, we never took out these old uniforms before today and we’re finding they are in a ­terrible state—missing buttons, broken zippers, moth holes and stains. And we don’t even think there are enough for everyone.”

“What does the band director think?” Megan asked.

“He expected us to wear new uniforms,” Mahdavi answered, spinning around to show off her half uniform, “I had on a jean skirt and fringed t-shirt. Most of us came dressed in really casual clothes. But he said that we could just wear what we came in.”

Danny made a face. “We just don’t think that looks very nice.” Danny put his arm around Mahdavi, “So, we’re trying to figure out what to do!”

“OMG!” Kim covered her face with her hands to avoid looking at the ­commotion around the room. “I can’t even look.” She cleared her throat, then said, “I’m really sorry about all this, but we have the math competition starting in an hour. And I think we need to focus on that.”

Surprised by Kim’s comments, Megan, Missy, Danny and Mahdavi stared blankly at her.

“Oh-kaaaay,” said Danny crossing his arms and sticking out his hip. “We just thought y’all might wanna help.” Danny reached out to Missy and Mahdavi. “We are the Figures and Icons!”

“Of course!” Missy responded, looking away from Kim and back around the room. “Let’s see what we have to work with.” Missy walked around the band room and took a quick inventory. She counted the number of band ­members and the individual uniform pieces. Surely, they could find a solution using the pieces they had! Missy stepped up to the band director and whispered ­something in his ear. The band director nodded and Missy walked back to Danny and her friends.

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“Danny, can you gather up all the uniforms and put all the usable pieces into piles?” Missy directed. “And, Mahdavi, please find out who wore jeans or pants today.”

In a matter of minutes, with the help of the band members, Missy and her friends had sorted all the band pants, jackets and hats and found they had eleven complete uniforms plus three jackets that needed only minor repairs and could be worn as-is today. The other pieces were too tattered to be wearable.

“If each band member who wore jeans only wears a band jacket and ­everyone who wore shorts or skirts just wears the pants, you can stretch out the usable items and you’ll still look like one band with matching uniforms,” Missy remarked. “Fourteen jackets and eleven pants will more than cover twenty-two people.”

Danny’s eyes bugged out. “Really?!” he said. The girls looked at his current state of dress and giggled. “You will really need to wear the band pants,” Mahdavi concluded.

“Well, you’ll have to figure out who has appropriate pants and shirts and then shuffle things around and maybe trade some items between you,” Missy said. “But I think you can do it!”

“Math to the rescue!” Ms. Jameson stepped into the room and approached the mathletes. She wore a navy blue pant suit with a crisp white blouse and low-heeled matching navy shoes. Ms. Jameson even wore make-up and had her hair in a bun. She had a large golden brooch of a Pi symbol pinned to her blazer collar and a red scarf tied neatly around her neck. Ms. Jameson ­shepherded the girls out of the band room commenting, “I’m glad I found you. We are getting ready to take our seats for the competition!”

Missy’s head was overflowing with ideas. If the old band uniforms were ­getting replaced, they were probably going into the recycling bin. She hoped they could be donated to the fashion club. There was so much fabric to mine from them, not to mention all the buttons, zippers and trim! As Missy walked down the hall, new designs danced in her head.

Missy, Megan, Kim and Ms. Jameson entered one of the backstage practice rooms. The CHAPS mathletes silently sat in various positions around the tiny room, except Peter who was pacing around in the limited floor space surrounding them. The atmosphere felt heavy. It seemed so much quieter and more somber and serious in this room compared to the band room. Missy wondered if the rest of mathletes even thought math was fun.

Missy noticed how the mathletes on her team had dressed for the day, some casual and some downright professional, like Kim. She wished they had ­uniforms of their own to wear in order to show they all belonged to the same team. Even though she loved her OOTD, and thought some other outfits looked great too, the whole team looked like a random bunch of kids. Missy imagined they could look more cohesive in some kind of uniform. She filed that thought away to bring up to Ms. Jameson after the competition.

Missy and Megan looked around for an empty spot to sit down on the floor. Kim quickly took a seat in a space by the door.

“OK, mathletes! Today is OUR day!” Ms. Jameson cheered and everyone looked up.

“That’s right,” Peter said jumping up and pumping his fist in the air. Just then another mathlete stood up and Peter mis-stepped and tripped. He went down saying “Oomph.” He flailed out his arms and flopped to the floor in a Superman pose. He quickly recovered, and was helped to his feet by Missy and Megan who were passing by.

“Uh. Thanks,” Peter said surprised. Then he blushed, seeing that he was ­holding hands with two girls.

Relieved that he was okay, the room filled with laughter. Peter smiled and pretended to reenact his superhero crash. That broke the tension, and the chatter and excitement levels rose. Ms. Jameson gathered them together, and the team lined up to head to the auditorium. Maybe these mathletes did love math as much as she did, Missy decided. Missy wished the math team got the same support as other CHAPS teams.

The mathletes took their designated seats beside all the other teams from schools around the county. Missy twisted around in her chair and scanned the growing crowd. She saw Ivy from Fairmount Prep and a few other ­familiar faces from other school competitions. Strangely, Missy even thought she ­spotted world-renowned fashion designer Sarah DeMott standing next to Chris in the mezzanine! The famous designer had judged Missy’s first fashion competition of the year. Missy remembered that she had an awesome sense of style.

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Missy continued scanning. AJ and G-ma had joined Mr. Maker in the audience. She made a mental note of where her dad was sitting after spotting him and AJ waving wildly to her from the back of the auditorium. Missy was thrilled they could all be there to cheer her and the CHAPS mathletes on. Three or more friends or family members per mathlete times twelve school teams meant there were at least 432 spectators! Not bad for an academic event, Missy thought to herself.

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AJ held up a sign that said, “Go M3! Go CHAPS!” Missy smiled to herself knowing only AJ would have thought to make a sign just for her.

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The CHAPS Marching Band expertly performed their rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” as the remaining students and spectators settled in their seats. They followed that up with the National Anthem and led the students and their families in the pledge of allegiance. As they exited the auditorium, they marched playing “The Ants Go Marching Two by Two.” Missy laughed at the math reference and settled into her seat. When the band had fully exited, something amazing happened. Sarah DeMott stepped up to the center stage microphone. Missy’s jaw flopped open. She couldn’t believe that her favorite designer of all-time was here, at her school, hosting a math competition!

Missy took in every detail of Sarah DeMott’s outfit from her pointy-toed, thigh-high, black leather boots with giant buttons running down the outsides like beetles standing at attention, to her green, white and blue plaid skirt that skimmed the top of her boots, to her fitted cable knit sweater with three-quarter-length sleeves and v-neck neckline. Topping it all off was a mini fedora floating atop her blond hair. It tilted slightly above her left eye. Missy wondered how many bobby pins had been used to anchor it in place to keep it secure from the effects of gravity.

Miss DeMott began speaking and Missy leaned forward on the edge of her seat. “Wow! That was a great performance by the Cherry Hill Band. Let’s give them another round of applause!”

Everyone clapped, then Miss DeMott said, “Thank you all for coming! My name is Sarah DeMott, and I am here to welcome all of you—students, ­teachers, parents and supporters—to this exciting STEM event! Science, technology, engineering, and math are mind-opening subjects and learning them well ­prepares us for many opportunities in life.”

Missy listened intently and thought she was hearing a recording of her own father’s words. If it had not been Sarah DeMott speaking them, she might have rolled her eyes and tuned out completely. How many times had her father said that studying math and science were the keys to a successful future? She had long ago lost count!

Miss DeMott continued, “As many of you know, I am a fashion designer, but you may not know that I am also a mathlete. I have loved math for as long as I can remember, especially geometry. And, while I am a designer today, my first career was as a mechanical engineer. I love shapes and patterns. I adore all the calculations and formulas that we use in design and engineering and architecture to make those shapes and patterns fit perfectly together. I am thrilled to be your host today.” She went on to discuss the day’s event and the rules of the competition. Then Miss DeMott introduced the judges and the competition began.

Missy was stunned. Her favorite designer was a mathlete AND an engineer?! Missy suddenly had a new perspective. M3 could be a designer and a math Olympian and whatever else she wanted to be!

“Math is awesome and so is Sarah DeMott,” Missy said to herself smiling ear to ear.

Based on their ranking and a series of coin tosses, CHAPS sat out the first ­several rounds of the Math Olympics. Missy was glad for that because it allowed her to see exactly how the competition worked. She had practiced with the CHAPS mathletes and had watched them scrimmage before, but she had never participated in or watched an actual live event.

Missy observed that each individual on the team answered one math ­problem, rotating back and forth across two teams per round. The competition ­proceeded in timed rounds, and every round included individual questions ­followed by more complex team questions. Team questions required the whole team to work out a response and to agree before presenting their final answer within a specified time limit. Each question had a number of points associated with it, and the team with the most points at the end of the round advanced to the next level of the competition. Missy noticed how rapt all the attending mathletes were. Each raced to solve the problems on their own in their heads or by scratching notes on index cards or notebooks. Missy could tell from frustrated actions like head slapping and fist banging whenever ­someone got a wrong answer. In three rounds, Missy had not missed one of the questions as she answered along to herself!

CHAPS took the stage for the fourth round, and won by two points, advancing to the next level. The CHAPS mathletes also won the following round and advanced with two other teams to the final round, which was scheduled after lunch. The CHAPS Marching Band returned and performed a classic rock mash-up. Then they marched down the aisles, and led the audience to the cafeteria. Each of the math teams reported to a different room where pizza, juice and water, and cut-up vegetables were served to them for lunch.

As the auditorium was emptying out from the main doors behind all the seats, the mathletes were led out through the backstage exit doors. Missy saw Chris approach Sarah DeMott in the corner of the stage. Miss DeMott touched his arm when she spoke to Chris, and Missy felt a jolt of electricity in her own arm. The two seemed so friendly, like they knew each other well.

The CHAPS mathletes regrouped in the small practice room where they had met in the morning. It smelled of hot pizza. Missy’s mouth watered when she stepped inside.

“Great job!” Ms. Jameson congratulated the team. “I’m so proud of all of you!” she said. “Now let’s relax and hydrate and enjoy lunch! We have forty-five ­minutes before the finals begin.”

From the doorway, Peter looked at Ms. Jameson and raised his eyebrows in a question. She signaled back to him with a nod and a wink. “Gooooo CHAPS!” he said, and everyone echoed in reply. Then the team lined up to get their lunches.

Three pizzas with eight slices for twelve students meant everyone could have two slices each. After Missy took a slice and some carrots and celery, she looked around the room for a place to sit and saw that Kim and Megan were on opposite sides of the room. Missy finally made eye contact with Megan, who motioned for Missy to sit down next to her. Missy carefully wound her way through the crowded room hoping not to have an epic fall like Peter had done earlier that day. When she made it safely to Megan, she said “Whew!” and carefully folded her legs to sit in the space next to her friend.

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“Can you believe Sarah DeMott is our host? Can you even believe that she is a mathlete?” Missy asked Megan.

“Totally!” Megan replied.

“Really?” Missy said, considering the facts. “She’s so glamorous and pretty and her designs are so AH-MAZING. I guess I never expected someone could love both math and fashion!”

Now it was Megan’s turn to be surprised. “Seriously?” she asked. “Did you ever look in the mirror?”

Missy smiled. “I guess I just never saw myself that way. But, I really am enjoying the competition. I should have joined the team sooner.”

Missy took a bite of pizza and absorbed the quiet vibe of the room. She wanted to ask Megan why she and Kim were not sitting together, but ­everyone was eating so the room was virtually silent, and Missy did not want to make a big deal out of it—especially if it was nothing.

“Mmmm. Good pizza,” Megan commented, wiping her face with a napkin.

“Yep,” Missy responded. “Tastes like Big Jim’s. That’s my family’s favorite.”

As people finished their first slice, several students lined up to take a second slice and the chatter picked up. Missy took the opportunity to ask Megan about Kim. “It’s simple,” Megan said. “She’s mad because of the band stuff this morning. Kim didn’t want to get involved because she said it was a big distraction, but I wanted to help, and I said she should come along too when Mahdavi came to us and explained the situation.”

“Oh. I guess it was a distraction, but it really helped calm my nerves,” Missy said. “And, I’m glad we could help the band. They have been awesome today! They played so well, their uniforms hardly mattered, but I do think they looked good.”

“I know it, right? Anyway, I’m glad we could help too, though that band room was crazy,” Megan said and smiled at Missy. “Hey—it’s great to have another girl on the team! It’s super that you could fill in this weekend. We were so happy that we didn’t have to forfeit the competition.”

“Thanks,” Missy said. “I’m really inspired by Miss DeMott! I think I would like to join the team if there’s room for me!”

“That’s super! We should tell Ms. J!” Megan exclaimed.

Missy nodded. “And, we should talk to Kim. I feel bad that she’s mad about this morning. By the way, whatever happened to the bullying situation?” Missy asked Megan.

Megan had just taken a sip of water and swallowed wrong. She coughed and sputtered. The question seemed to have caught her off guard. “Oh. That. Someone posted on SocialMe that I should quit the math club. At first I was so mad. Then I just got sad and a little bit scared.”

“OMG. Really?” Missy asked. “That’s awful!”

“Yeah,” Megan continued. “I wasn’t sure what to do about it. My parents talked to the principal. They took the message down and I haven’t seen ­anything like it since. It was a mess. I was thinking about quitting even though I didn’t want to quit. And, Kim didn’t want me to quit and leave her as the only girl on the team.” Megan looked across the room and finger waved at Kim who was ­sitting alone by the door. Kim waved back and gave a tentative smile. She pushed herself up to her feet and joined the other two girls.

“Hey,” Kim said.

“Hey,” Missy and Megan said in unison.

“Jinx,” Missy whispered. “Later,” she said referring to finishing the game. “We were just talking about SocialMe bullies.”

“Anyway,” Megan continued, “I worked so hard and I improved a lot in my math skills. It was not easy at first, but I started to really like it. So, I’m glad Ms. Jameson and the principal could help, although we still don’t know who was behind the mean messages.” Megan looked at Kim who smiled in earnest. “All I know is that they just stopped. So, I’m glad that I took your advice and talked to a teacher! Ms. J listened and helped me get through everything.”

Missy tried not to think back to the year before when she was bullied for being a good student—and especially for showing her math skills. Yet, it all came flooding back to her. In her case, two students had been identified and expelled from school. Then, the whole school attended anti-bullying ­workshops and Missy had hoped it was over forever. The thought of a bully hurting her friends upset her. She would be there for them and help in any way that she could.

While Megan was talking, Missy pulled out her phone and brought up her SocialMe and showed the girls the message from that morning. “At first, I was really upset at seeing that terrible nickname again, but I decided to embrace it. I’m ‘M-cubed’. I think it’s sassy!”

Kim raised her eyebrows, “You should probably mention it to Ms. Jameson, you know, just so she knows.”

“You’re right. I will. Even though I don’t think it’s bullying in my case,” Missy said, and then she made her way over to the trash can to throw away her paper plate.

On her way back to her friends, Missy first walked over to Ms. Jameson who was sitting at a makeshift desk consisting of a folding chair stacked with boxes of copy paper. She was eating a pre-packaged salad and crackers.

“Hey there, Missy! Great job so far. Are you having fun?” Ms. Jameson asked.

“It’s been great,” Missy said, looking down at her feet wondering how to approach the subject.

“So, what’s up, kiddo? Do you need something?” Ms. Jameson asked.

“Actually,” Missy started. “I wanted to show you something. I’m not upset—any more—but with all the cyberbullying, I just wanted you to know about this comment on my SocialMe page.”

Ms. Jameson stood up and walked with Missy into the hallway. There, she took Missy’s phone from her outstretched hand and read the posting along with Missy’s response and the subsequent comments. “You handled that very well,” Ms. Jameson said. “I’m sorry to see any name-calling—even if it’s all in good fun. I promise to investigate it and we’ll have the comments taken down.” She shook her head and handed Missy her phone back. “Thank you for ­showing this to me. On the plus side, it looks like your friends are really supporting you!”

“Okay. Thanks,” Missy said as she stepped back into the room. “Oh. By the way, I think I want to join the math team more permanently, if that’s alright,” Missy headed across the room to where her friends sat.

“That’s wonderful,” Ms. Jameson called to her as she made her way across the room.

“Hey, Missy, I just read some of the comments out there on SocialMe,” Kim said.

“You’ve got quite a fan club, M-cubed,” Megan said, using her fingers to make quote signs.

“Do I?” Missy asked looking at her phone and scrolling through. “Wow! I guess I do!” Missy was thrilled to see her friends had posted even more comments and responses supporting her.

As the team finished eating and everyone started cleaning up their cups, plates and napkins, Peter rallied the team, and called for a cheer. Missy led them with the mantra from her dad, “Math is awesome and so are we! Goooooo CHAPS!” The team repeated her cheer as they marched out of the room and down the hallway.

The stage had been rearranged to accommodate the three teams that had made it to the finals. The tables were set in a u-shaped configuration with the microphone still set up in the center of the stage.

Chris walked past Missy muttering to himself, bumping her shoulder as she took her seat. He was dressed in black from head to toe and carried a length of cable over his left shoulder. He held an oversized walkie-talkie in his right hand. His long hair hung straight down revealing only one eye. Missy’s heart fluttered. Chris sidestepped several other mathletes to avoid a collision as he headed down the steps and into the side aisle rushing toward the mezzanine.

Missy wondered what the hurry was all about just as Sarah DeMott spoke into the microphone and feedback tore through the overhead speakers. The high-pitched sound had students and supporters covering their ears with their hands or plugging them with their fingertips. Missy noticed AJ had held onto her posterboard sign when she covered her ears, so it now formed a strange, giant bonnet over her head.

After a loud click, the feedback ended and Miss DeMott shouted to the ­audience that they were having some technical difficulties and that the band would perform one last time before the final round. The CHAPS Marching Band started playing in the hallway, then they marched into and around the auditorium playing “Seventy-six Trombones” from the Music Man musical.

“What a perfect song!” Missy thought and found herself humming along to the catchy tune. She looked for and spotted Chris in the mezzanine waving signals to someone backstage. The song wrapped up and the band exited to roaring applause. No microphones were needed for that team! Missy watched Chris and smiled when she saw him give the thumbs-up signal. She knew it was for his AV contact backstage, but she felt like it was aimed directly at her.

Sarah DeMott spoke into the now working mic and reviewed the rules. “Congratulations to our three finalist teams! What an exciting day we have had so far! At the end of this round, the highest scoring team will be named champion of the Math Olympics!” she explained.

For the final round, CHAPS was seated stage left, Fairmount Prep was stage right, and St. Mark’s Academy sat at the center table. Missy waved across the stage to Ivy who winked at her and waved back. The Fairmount Prep team all wore red golf shirts with the school logo on the front and the students’ last names in yellow letters across the back. St. Mark’s mathletes wore their school uniform jackets with white shirts and khaki pants and skirts. Missy looked down the line at the CHAPS mathletes. She envisioned them all wearing gray t-shirts each with a different white math notation, CHAPS Knights graphic, and their names imprinted on the back. Ten dollars per t-shirt for each mathlete and Ms. J. Missy wondered if the math club had at least $130 in their treasury to fund her uniform idea.

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Silence settled over the stage as Miss DeMott read out the questions. The mathletes solved a plethora of problems. One after the other no one got a wrong answer. Missy imagined the final round might last until midnight. Then, St. Mark’s got eliminated. They lost two points on a team question when one student blurted out a correct answer without the agreement of his ­teammates. Ms. Jameson had cautioned them about presenting answers in the team challenges, so Peter made sure everyone agreed on the final answer even when time was short.

The whole competition came down to a duel between CHAPS and Fairmount Prep! The two teams had perfect scores for the day.

“Okay! Great job mathletes,” Miss DeMott announced. “We have one last question and the first team to respond with the correct answer will win the Math Olympics. Are you ready?” she asked and everyone nodded.

Missy heard someone in the audience crinkling a wrapper through the quiet.

“I am designing a dress for a gala,” Miss DeMott said, beginning the math ­problem. “The dress is made of eight identical right triangles plus two identical rectangles. I also need 15% more fabric to account for fittings and ­adjustments. How many yards of fabric do I need to purchase to construct my dress? And, if I don’t have to make any adjustments, how much may become waste?” Sarah DeMott shared the dimensions and set the time clock.

As Miss DeMott asked the question, Missy saw shapes lining up in her mind’s eye. She quickly realized that the four right triangles came together to ­measure the same size as the rectangle. Missy multiplied it all out. She determined that seventy-two inches or two yards of material measuring thirty-six inches wide would need to be purchased, and two yards by six inches could be waste. Though in Missy’s mind, there was always another project to be made from any scraps.

“Got it!” Missy said, and Peter rang the buzzer. Without him asking, the whole team nodded. Missy presented the solution.

“Correct!” Miss DeMott declared. “Congratulations to Cherry Hill Academy and Preparatory School!”

“Wahoo!” Missy heard her father’s cheer from the back of the auditorium as her team surrounded her and patted her on the back.

The mathletes lined up and congratulated the other teams on their well-fought math battle. Each of the finalists received a medal, and the CHAPS mathletes received a team trophy too.

“Well done!” Ms. Jameson shook everyone’s hands as they filed back into the tiny practice room. She gave Missy a squeeze around her shoulders as she passed by. “I am so proud of you. You all did a great job!”

“Hey, M-cubed,” Peter called to Missy. “Thanks for helping us today. I hope you will consider joining the team.”

“I will! Ms. Jameson has promised me a spot! And, I can’t wait for the next meet,” Missy announced, and everyone high-fived.

Missy took a selfie with the team that she noticed was photo-bombed by Danny and Mahdavi still dressed in their band uniforms. The two had slipped into the room amidst the celebration. Missy posted the photo to her SocialMe page with the hashtags mathmakers and CHAPSforthewin. Then she gathered up her coat and backpack to leave. When Missy turned around to say goodbye to her friends, she saw Chris at the door with Sarah DeMott. She felt her face flush with color.

“OMG. OMG,” Megan said, jumping in place and tugging on Missy’s coat. “That’s Sarah DeMott!”

“I know it!” said Missy.

Ms. Jameson cleared her throat. “And, here’s a special surprise. Miss Sarah DeMott would like to congratulate you in person.”

“Thank you, Jenn.” she said to Ms. Jameson. “Great job, mathletes. I’m so ­honored to be here at CHAPS. I am really impressed by all the students today, and I hope you continue your math studies! Good luck to you all!”

“Miss DeMott has time for a few questions if anyone would like to talk to her,” Ms. Jameson announced.

Missy had so many questions: How did you go from engineering to fashion? What did you like to do in middle school? Who’s your favorite designer?

As the students stepped up to ask their questions, Missy noticed Chris was lingering in the doorway. When she looked at him, he smiled and nodded at her. She bravely walked over and said hello.

“Hey. Good job on the competition,” Chris said. “Did you see I gave you a thumbs-up at halftime?”

Missy blushed. “I did!” she said, and then she scratched her head. “So. Wait a sec. Do you know Miss DeMott? You two looked so chummy today and now you’re here—with her.”

Chris tossed his head back, flipping his hair and briefly revealing a glimpse into both eyes. “Oh yeah. She’s my aunt. My mom’s sister.”

“That’s super,” Missy said. “Wow! You’re so lucky to know her. She’s ­amazing—electrifying, really.”

Chris nodded, “Yeah. She’s cool.”

“Okay. Ready?” Miss DeMott said over Missy’s shoulder to Chris.

“Mmhmm,” Chris said. “This is Missy,” Chris introduced the two.

Missy gushed, “OMG! Wow! You’re my inspiration.” Missy turned to shake Sarah DeMott’s hand. “I love your mini fedora! How did you get it to stay in place?”

“Thank you, Missy. Between you and me, I used seven hairpins and some ­double-sided tape—a designer’s favorite insurance policy! By the way, you are quite an inspiration yourself. Nice job on that last question, and on your outfit. That skirt is divine!”

Missy beamed at the fashion icon nearly forgetting how to speak, “I-I made it,” she finally said.

“The shapes, the pattern. The geometry of your skirt is like a poem. It’s a great design. I hope I’ll be seeing you again! Ta-ta,” Miss DeMott said. She looped her arm through Chris’s and they headed out.

Missy stared after them, watching them disappear down the hall. Without turning back, Chris put his arm out to the side making a thumbs-up signal with his hand that Missy knew he aimed directly at her.

FormalPara Fashion Hack: Blanket Shawl How-to
  1. 1.

    Find a favorite old blanket or towel that you want to upcycle. It should be a long rectangle.

  2. 2.

    Sew or staple the corners 1 to 2 and 3 to 4 together to create a simple shawl. Turn the garment inside-out to hide your sewing or staples. Embellish with buttons, ribbons or paint.

figure h
  1. 3.

    Put your arms through the newly formed sleeves (the openings created though corners 1 + 2 and corners 3 + 4).

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Borza, M.A. (2017). All the Right Angles. In: Fashion Figures. Apress, Berkeley, CA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4842-2274-4_10

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