Philip failed his last math test, but it wasn't his fault. He told me so. He only failed because of his new pencil.
Philip never used to have trouble with his pencils. They always wrote down the right answers when he told them to. Sometimes, his pencils even helped him to draw funny pictures. But Philip’s new pencil just wouldn’t cooperate.
Usually, Philip didn't have to worry about tests. His old pencil always quietly helped him to figure out the right answers. And when his pencil made a mistake, Philip simply pulled out his old, trusty eraser and set things right.
But Philip's new pencil didn’t want to follow the rules. It started complaining the minute Philip wrote his name on the top of the test paper.
"Why do we always have to put YOUR name on the paper?" the pencil whined. "You couldn't do the work without me. Why don't I ever get any credit? It’s not fair!"
"No talking during the test," Ms. Rosie warned.
Philip hid his pencil in his lap and smiled at his teacher. When she went back to her desk, he leaned over his paper and tried to concentrate on the first question.
“If Peter had four bananas and gave one to Natalie, how many bananas does Peter have left?” he read.
Philip held up four fingers. Then, he put one finger down and counted. He still had three fingers sticking up, so four take away one must be three.
He tried to write “Peter would have three bananas left,” but Philip's new pencil just laughed.
“You’re crazy!” the pencil announced. “That is obviously a trick question. Peter wouldn’t have any bananas left, because if he shared one with Natalie, then Ben and Emily and Becky and Katie and Angela would want one too, and there wouldn’t even be enough bananas to go around. Peter would have to go to the store for more bananas so he could share them with the entire class.”
“Be quiet!” Philip whispered.
But his new pencil wasn’t finished. “Peter sounds inconsiderate to me,” it said. “Didn't Ms. Rosie say we can only bring special treats to class if we bring enough for everybody?”
“Who is talking?” Ms. Rosie asked, peering around the classroom.
Philip covered his new pencil with both hands, so Ms. Rosie wouldn’t hear it talking. When she finally went back to her work, Philip cautiously pulled his pencil out again.
He didn't want to argue anymore, so he decided to skip to the next question.
“If it takes Doug fifteen minutes to walk to school, what time does he need to leave his house to get to school by 8:30?”
This one was a little bit harder, but Philip knew he could figure it out. He looked at the clock on the wall. He knew 8:30 was when the big hand pointed to the six and the little hand was in between the eight and the nine. He counted backward by fives. Fifteen minutes before 8:30 would be when the big hand pointed at the three. So Doug would have to leave his house at 8:15.
But when Philip tried to write down the answer, his new pencil wouldn’t cooperate.
“It’s another trick question,” the pencil complained. “You know that Susie would want to walk with Doug, and she’s not as fast as he is, so he would have to wait for her. If he waited until 8:15 to leave his house, you know he would be late for school. He should probably leave at 8:00, just to be on the safe side.”
“Don’t listen to him, kid,” Philip's old, trusty eraser said. “That pencil isn’t very sharp. Besides, I’ve erased every kind of mistake ever made, and I know a good answer when I see one. I think you're right.”
“But the pencil has a point,” the glue stick argued. “Ms. Rosie is tricky. Remember last week, when she said you should always put I before E except after C? What if Doug needs to leave at 8:15 except when Susie walks to school with him?”
“Oh, cut it out!” snapped the scissors. “You stick up for everyone, even when they're wrong!”
“Be quiet!” Philip begged, forgetting to whisper. “I need to finish my math test, and you’re not helping.”
“Philip, our tests are supposed to be individual efforts,” Ms. Rosie said, as she took his test paper away from him. “We don't ask our neighbors for help.”
So you see, it wasn't Philip’s fault that he failed his math test. He only failed because his mom bought him a new pencil.