865/5 = 173

When I was in kindergarten, my brother, Michael, was busy preparing for his first standardized test. I believe it was the California Achievement Test (which was weird, living in Illinois), a nation-wide test offered to all third graders.

On the morning of the test, he was visibly nervous; but luckily our mom served him “brain food” for breakfast: tuna fish. Michael was ready for the test.

At the end of the long day of testing, Michael came home to my parents’ questions. How was the test? Was it hard? Did he know the answers?

Michael told us that the test was mostly easy, except there was one hard long division question and his class had not yet learned long division.

“In three years, Lia, you’ll be in third grade,” my brother said to me. “When you take your CAT test, you might have a question asking you what 865 divided by 5 is. If that question is on there, just remember: The answer is 173.” Apparently frustrated by this difficult question, Michael had immediately computed the answer on his calculator after the test.

Three years went by — years of learning how to read in English and Hebrew, learning how to add and subtract, and learning how to take care of frogs. I entered third grade and I loved it. When standardized testing arrived, I was ready enough. I was reasonably smart, and it’s not like they were going to use these scores for my college acceptance. And a little voice in the back of my mind reminded me of my brother’s advice.

Sure enough, I opened the math section of the test, and there it was.

865/5 =
a) 201
b) 173
c) 408
d) 129
(okay, I didn’t memorize the other choices, but those seem about right)

I felt like I was on top of the world. I know the answer! I know the answer! Michael was right!

I never got the scored version of my test, as is customary with standardized tests; but I was sure I had at least one right answer.

Michael, in case I haven’t thanked you before: Thanks for helping me on that third grade test. To this day, I actually don’t remember how to do long division by hand, but I’d impress a lot of people at parties if you asked me that particular math problem.