Calendar filled with wealth info

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 13, 2000

For most of us, the calendar is simply a device we use to mark time. It’s an uncomplicated way to keep track of appointments, holidays, anniversaries and such.

But for a small group of Natchez-Adams first-graders the calendar so many of us take for granted each day serves as a springboard into a timeless world of knowledge.

Visitors entering Mrs. Pam Hilton’s class at West Primary School won’t notice anything alarming from the looks of the classroom.

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Small tables and chairs fill a portion of the room. A large carpeted area is next to the modern, chalk-less dry-erase board.

Educational activities line the back walls of the room.

Typical of first-grade classrooms, colorful decorations are stuck on every free inch of wall and window real estate. A few such decorations hang suspended from the ceiling like spiders tethered to earth by their own newly spun silk.

The freshly scrubbed faces atop the miniature bodies seated around the room are equally as interesting. The group of tiny faces almost perfectly reflects the racial and gender demographics of Adams County.

Each face is different. Some are black, some white. About half are boys and about half are girls.

The lone similarity is that without exception, each face looks eager to get the morning ritual started. And they don’t have to wait long.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag, the group gets down to business.

&uot;Who’s class leader today?&uot; Mrs. Hilton asks.

A shy-looking girl raises her hand and steps forward to write her name on the board. And the class shifts its focus to the calendar on the wall next to the door.

&uot;What day is today?&uot; the teacher asks.

&uot;Tuesday!&uot; exclaims the excited group in unison.

&uot;And what’s today’s date?&uot; Mrs. Hilton asks.

&uot;The 22nd!&uot; the class responds.

&uot;Who can give me an equation that equals 22?&uot; the teacher asks.

Exuberant hands fly up everywhere. Hilton selects one of the children.

&uot;20 plus 2 equals 22,&uot; says the boy, proud of his accomplishment.

&uot;Good,&uot; Mrs. Hilton says as she picks the next student.

Tiny hands clasp their owners’ mouths to prevent the answers from slipping out when it isn’t their turn.

One-by-one class members come up with equations to equal the date marked on the calendar.

The scenario is repeated a few times until the stakes are raised.

&uot;Who can do it with a variable?&uot; the teacher challenges.

Hands pop up.

&uot;A plus B equals 22,&uot; the girl says.

&uot;If?&uot; asks Mrs. Hilton.

&uot;Oh … If A equals 10 and B equals 12,&uot; the girls says.

&uot;Good!&uot; the teacher says. &uot;OK, who can do it with an exponent?&uot;

&uot;Four to the 2nd power equals 16 plus six equals 22,&uot; explains the young girl.

&uot;And how did you know that four to the 2nd power equals 16?&uot; Mrs. Hilton quizzes the girl.

&uot;Because four times four equals 16,&uot; explained the girl.

In the course of 15 minutes one number, that just happened to be the day’s date, had been spun into a mathematics lesson.

And we’re not talking simple math.

These first-graders are learning concepts and theories that many older folks didn’t learn until after they had driver’s licenses.

At the ripe ages of six and seven, this group of students is already learning the basic concepts of algebra. And each morning Mrs. Hilton guides the class along, gleaning more knowledge from a simple calendar than most of us discover there in a lifetime.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at