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He isn't used to being wrong.
So when the girl sitting next to him, the small, quiet girl with the thick brown hair and the maroon glasses, wonders if he might be, he is shocked. He tries to hide it behind a smirk, and is apparently successful, for she doesn't seem to notice anything.
Correction: it's not that he's not used to being wrong. It's that he's not used to getting the wrong answer. There is a difference, you know.
“Where do you get the -3 from? It's a reflection!” she says emphatically. “Look, if you reflect (2,3) across the x-axis, you get (2,-3)-”
“That's what I got.”
Correction: it's not that he's not used to being wrong, it's that he's not used to being challenged. He was the undisputed math genius—math god, Joe had even dared to call him—and no one here could ever think otherwise.
“But then why -3? The reflection is (-2,3)-”
“You don't see it, do you?” he sighed. “You weren't reflecting across the line y=x.”
“Yes, I was.”
Correction: it's not that he's not used to being challenged. Well, he isn't used to being challenged, but what has been throwing him off wasn't that. It was the stubbornness of his opponent, so clearly wrong. She didn't see it. No one did.
“What you did, that's not a reflection. At least, not across y=x.” He knows it's a blind hope, that none of his classmates ever reach the level of understanding that he naturally possesses.
She frowns, and turns to the group behind them.“Kate, what did you get from Problem 4? Colin and I are having a disagreement,” she asks her neighbor coolly.
“Negative two,” the friend replies.
“It's not a hard problem, you're just not looking at it right,” Colin protests half-heartedly. He wishes the teacher would come around and prove him right already. “Besides, if you try to do it logically, without the graph-”
She is confused, though she tries to hide it with a smirk. “It's a very visual process, Colin. I don't know how you can do it without seeing it.”
Of course I can do it. You can't, because you're not supposed to have this knowledge in your brain. He desperately wants to say this, but he can't.
He isn't used to having to explain things to partners. Usually they just accept what he says—he is the math genius, after all.
She grabs the graph paper, folds it over the line y=x that she has so neatly drawn, punches a hole with her pencil through what she can see of Point (2,-3). She unfolds the paper and notes where the punched hole is. “I see.”
She approaches it cautiously, visibly upset about being wrong. She tilts her head slightly to the right. “I see. I couldn't ignore the coordinate plane and just get to the line.”
He cleared his throat. “Yes, and when a point in reflected across y=x, the coordinates switch.”
She seemed to be ignoring him. “Why not? Why couldn't I see straight to the line? Too tangled up in the perfect symmetry of the coordinate plane...”
He sighed. Don't try to figure out why you got it wrong, just know you got it wrong and go on to the next one, he thought.
Her eye catches his, and he can clearly hear her quiet voice ringing. But it loses meaning, she protests. There are more important things in life than being right. Or rather, getting the right answer. There is a difference, you know.