By: Jean Boonstra
How will a visit from a neighborhood cat help Breonna with her math struggles? Let’s find out at Discovery Mountain Academy.
Owen sat down on the grass and held his hands out ready to catch. “Give Stella the ball again. I’m ready,” he laughed.
Mia set the bouncy red ball in the grass. The rust and white colored kitten sniffed it. “Ok Stella,” Mia said gently. “Send the ball over to Owen!”
Stella the kitten pounced at the ball and then swatted it with her front paw. The ball sped across the grass and Owen lurched to catch it.
“Good job Stella!” Mia cheered. “Breonna, come and play catch with Stella,” Mia called to her friend.
Breonna sat with her back against the school wall, her arms crossed. “Nah, not today,” she answered.
Owen set the bouncy red ball in front of Stella. Swat! The ball rolled across the grass. A group of kids laughed and ran to catch it.
“Breonna?” Mia asked plopping onto the grass next to her friend. “Is everything ok?”
Breonna frowned. “No,” she mumbled.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Mia offered.
Breonna sighed. “I’m going to fail 8th grade!”
Mia tried to remember what happened in their classroom that morning.
“Did you fail the math test this morning?” she asked.
“No,” Breonna admitted. “I passed. But barely.”
“What’s it called again?” Mia asked. “The thing that makes math so hard?”
“Dyscalculia,” Breonna said slumping against the wall.
“Oh right,” Mia said. “Do the numbers look backwards?”
“Not exactly,” Breonna said. “They get all turned around. I wish that I wasn’t like this. I wish that I could just see numbers like everyone else!”
The happy noises from the playground caught Mia’s attention. Suddenly, she had an idea.
Mia ran across the grass. She scooped the kitten up in one arm and the ball in the other.
“Hey Stella,” Breonna smiled and scratched the kitten under her chin. The kitten purred in contentment.
“Look at her front paws,” Mia said.
Breonna studied the kitten’s paws, and then she saw it! “She has thumbs!” she exclaimed with delight.
“No,” Mia laughed. “They’re not thumbs. But, she has an extra toe on each front paw. She’s polydactyl.”
“She’s extra cute!” Breonna smiled.
“And,” Mia said, “that’s what makes her so good at swatting the ball.”
“Her little paws are extra wide. Perfect for swatting,” Breonna giggled.
“She’s not like all the other cats,” Mia said. “That makes her really good at something unique.”
“You’re trying to make me feel better,” Breonna said with a smile. “But, Mia I see numbers differently than everyone else in our class. And it doesn’t make me really good at math. It’s the opposite.”
“But, it makes you really good at other things,” Mia said. “You’re the best at memorizing phone numbers and addresses.”
“Yeah, so that I don’t have to try and read them,” Breonna explained.
“And you’re the most out-going person in our class! You’re not afraid to speak up front or talk to anyone—new kids, teachers—anyone!” Mia gushed.
“I like talking to people. People aren’t nearly as scary as numbers,” Breonna said.
“I’m scared of those things,” Mia explained. “Breonna, we’re all different in some way. I’ll help you with math if you help me with the speech we have to do next week.”
Breonna smiled. “OK! Maybe I won’t fail 8th grade after all.”
Mia laughed. “No way!”
“Now give me the ball,” Breonna grinned. “OK Stella, let’s see you swat!”