Thursday, January 10, 2008

Scam Artist Or Genius?

Though three of the four people who inhabit my house live by an academic calendar, we all find ourselves in different places with regard to that calendar right now. Brooke is back at school and nearly a week into the winter quarter. I am still enjoying my semester break for a few more days. Erin is back at school as well though because of the way the Texas legislature has played with the school schedules, she went back after Christmas break to finish two weeks of the "Fall" semester. This means that next week she has mid-year exams. It has been hard for both students and teachers to adjust to this new schedule. In years past, everyone enjoyed being at a point of closure, having already taken exams when the Christmas holidays began, and then going back to school in January ready to start a fresh semester.

So, Erin is busy finishing projects before the six weeks and the semester end as well as preparing for exams. Her calculus teacher is being a pal and allowing the class to use their notes for the exam. Here is the catch; the notes that can be used must be copied out on an index card, a commercially available index card - one index card per student and no sharing. If you are an office supply junkie like we all are, you know that index cards come in several sizes - the standard 3x5, 4x6, and the less standard but still fairly common 5x7. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the bigger your card the more notes you can cram onto it.

We have plenty of both 3x5 and 4x6 cards at home. Needless to say, neither were big enough for all of the necessary formulae and equations so we headed to the toy store, I mean the office supply store, to buy 5x7 index cards. The shelves were full of 3x5 cards with lines, without lines, in pastel colors, in neon colors, with a different color on each side, but 3x5 is still 3x5. There were not quite as many choices in the 4x6 size, though obviously they were bigger and that really is all that mattered. As Erin carefully examined all the possibilities in index cards, she finally made her selection. She found the biggest honest to goodness index card we had ever seen - 5x8! You can fit a lot of numbers on a 5x8 card, especially if you use two colors of ink and write in two different directions, as she plans to do.

Quite proud of her find at Office Max, and in keeping with her reputation as an over-achiever, she took her cards to class the next day and showed them to her teacher. The only restriction that he had placed on the cards was that they must be commercially produced and these were. Score one for Erin. After the initial unveiling of the steroid enhanced index cards, Erin's point count kept rising. Being the quick thinker that she is, she offered to sell these 5X8 cards to her classmates for 25 cents. Since she is allowed to use only one card herself, she had 49 extra cards. Her little entrepreneurial adventure netted her several dollars. This was a great deal for her considering I payed for the cards to begin with. She does well in calculus, but no one has told her that she needs to consider her capital investors once the business becomes successful.

It is not surprising that she used this opportunity to make a few bucks. She is the same kid who, when she broke her leg at age six, sold advertising space on her cast. Erin was buddies with the girl who worked in the cafe at our local Borders Books. For a few free cups of coffee, Erin let the Borders employee fill a good portion of her cast (she was six so there was limited space as the leg of a six year old is rather short) with a Borders promotional. The same offer was extended to a favorite barbecue restaurant in town. In this case, I believe Erin got a free piece of pie in exchange for cast space. Her friends were allowed to sign free of charge once all of the business deals had been finalized.

Hopefully Erin's fine shopping skills and emerging business sense will be followed by success on her calculus midterm!