2+2 Pitfall | Teen Ink

# 2+2 Pitfall MAG

After his first two years of grade school, Jeff's teachers had labeled him a genius of Einsteinian proportions. Worse yet, it seemed as if each year that followed brought renewed waves of compliments and praise, poured onto Jeff by his impressed instructors. His parents were extremely confident of Jeff's academic skills, and neither of them was the least surprised at the warm commendations Jeff frequently received. "After all," they mused, "if he has our genes, then of course he's bright!" Jeff took the praise in stride, remarking after one especially complimentary letter, "I wish they wouldn't bother with all this, we all know I'm the smartest kid in Franklin Elementary!"

And so it happened that one spring, the principal of Franklin Elementary decided to call Jeff Mensat, her strongest fifth grade student, to her office. She had read the reports of Jeff's infallible logic, his knack for putting together series of logical steps into exceptional conclusions, and his strong mathematical background, and she had concluded that Jeff would be the perfect student to put her school on the map.

"Jeff, would you be so kind as to have a seat?" she said, as Jeff entered her office. A chill passed through the room, reinforcing the annoyance that Jeff felt at being bothered by this foolish woman for some presumably inane task, but Jeff nodded. "You see, Jeff, there is a competition currently underway for grade school students, and it occurred to me that,"

"Excuse me, Mrs. Melley? Is this going to take much longer? I-I've got to get back to class."

"Jeff, I'm hoping you can solve this problem, and win the state competition. The attention would be good for our school, and ,"

"Oh! Well, normally I'd be glad to help the school, but I'm afraid I'm too busy. Anyway,,"

",and you would receive a prize of one thousand dollars."

"Oh, I see... I'm sure I can work out some time to help out, Mrs. Melley. Could I have the problem, please? I'd like to get started."

So Jeff began his lengthy effort to win the prize, an effort which, as it turned out, extended over several weeks. His proud parents were so confident that Jeff would defeat all the other students competing for the prize that they bought Jeff a computer with the prize money they were so sure he would win.

At last, after nearly a month of nightly work, step by step, Jeff finally reached the final phase of the process, and the following day sent in his answer, along with acceptance remarks for the prize in case the officials wanted to print his reaction to winning before speaking with him.

Two weeks later the answer came at last, far too long a wait in the Mensat's opinion.

Brrring!!! Brrrring!!!!

"Hello, Mensat residence."

"Jeffrey Mensat? You've done a fine job, son," said the official on the phone in response to Jeff's submission. "We'd like to give you a warm thank-you for your time and effort, and we know,"

"What do you mean Awarm thank- you'? I want my money!" demanded the loud 11-year-old.

"Well, I'm sorry, Jeffrey, but there was a slight miscalculation in your entry-"

"I never miscalculate, sir; you must be mistaken!"

"You see, Jeffrey, steps one through 27 were brilliant, as were steps 29-64, but I'm afraid you omitted, in step 28, the most basic mathematical fact. Two and two make four, Jeffrey! That was your mistake! You see, son, even bright upstarts like you make mistakes, but I wouldn't worry...."

As Jeffrey hung up the phone, he realized that even with all the native intelligence in the world, one was still human. Even he, Jeffrey Mensat had made an mistake, and lost. n