SANTA FE, New Mexico – Asha Pillai, 14, was unable to provide a suitable answer as to why she only got 95% on Friday’s math test. Her parents, Mohan and Lakshmi, demand to know where the other 5% went.
Ms. Pillai, a freshman at Academy for Tech and Class, took a Geometry test last Friday for which she’d had a week to prepare. She thought that she had aced it but when she got the test back it she learned that she had only scored 95.
“I made a couple of small mistakes,” said Ms. Pillai. “I guess I rushed through it too fast and misread some of the problems. I’m still getting an A+ in the class but this will be tough to explain to my parents. I’m glad I have tennis team practice after school so I don’t have to hurry home to the firing squad.” But once tennis practice was over, she was picked up by her mom – and the interrogation began.
Mrs. Pillai told her side of the story: “I picked Asha up from tennis practice and noticed that she took a little longer than usual to walk to the car. I knew right then that she did not get 100% on her test. I just didn’t know how bad it was going to be. There was a very real possibility that this was going to ruin her chances of getting into a good college. So as soon as she got in the car I asked about the test. And she had the nerve to ask to talk about it at home. So I said OK – but guess who’s home early from work today?”
Mr. Pillai usually comes home around 6:15pm but today he was returning from a business trip and arrived home at 4pm. “Thank god I came home early,” said an exasperated Mr. Pillai. “When the two of them walked in the house I took one look at their faces and knew we had a problem. When Asha told us she only got 95% we immediately wanted to know where the other 5% went.”
“Yes – what happened to the other 5%?” demanded Mrs. Pillai. “It just flew out the window? Where did it go?”
“They ask but they don’t really want to know,” said Asha. “I don’t know where the hell the 5% went. Technically it never existed so it doesn’t even matter. But they kept going on and on about it. They bugged me about it when I got home. They tried to avoid talking about it during dinner but couldn’t hold back. Later while I was doing my homework I could see them shaking their heads and muttering to themselves. And when I was in bed I could have sworn I heard my mom crying.”
“She never has a good answer for where the other 5% went,” said Mrs. Pillai, wiping a tear from her eye. “Of course it’s a trick question but this is a special parenting technique we have. The idea is to get her to think about it so she can learn to analyze her faults and fix them.”
Off the record, another family member had a different explanation: “In reality, the technique is much simpler. The goal is to irritate the child so much that it’s easier to just get 100% than to hear about it over and over from mom and dad.”