Mathematics and Crayons One moment I had my seat. The next, Emma had stolen it. I was outraged. She had violated the divine law of land: the seating chart. Ordinarily such disputes called for a grueling best-of-nine match of Rock-Paper-Scissors. But this time, such trivial treaties did not suffice. I escalated our fun rivalry into Mrs. Massaro’s weekly problem-solving contests. The Friday before Winter Break, I was pumped after flattening her in the first nine problems. Emma York’s reign of seat-stealing would finally come to an end. Moving on to the last problem, I read, “How many paths in this maze can the cat take to catch the mouse?” The war had to end in style. I uncorked the big guns: a barrage of permutations, grids, and Vandermonde’s identity. It was an all-star lineup of the fancy stuff big high school students were haunted by. I was proud. But there was a minor snag. It made no sense. I couldn’t quite figure out how to incorporate my puddle of numbers. I watched Emma tackle the problem. She was using
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