Go back to Chapter Two
The best thing about the bracelets we made is that they’re all a little bit different, just like each of us. After Rory’s party, I told my mom how much everyone loved my present and about my idea for us all to make friendship bracelets. She thought it was a great idea, and on Wednesday she got home early and we went to the craft store together to pick out more supplies. We asked Jack if he wanted to come too, but he said he was going to take Pig scuba diving in the bathtub instead. Mom shook her head at that and closed her eyes, but Dad said he was on it; he even had dryer sheets ready so Pig would at least be dry and fluffy--if not quite good as new--when Jack was ready to bring him back to land.
It was nice, hanging out just the two of us, and we picked out beads and baubles and charms we thought each of my friends would like. I squealed when I saw a tiny soccer ball charm--I just knew Bailey would love that. When we were done shopping we went to Johnny Rockets, and Mom asked me questions while we ate burgers and split fries. She even let me order a Cherry Coke! She never lets us drink soda, because of all the high fructose maple syrup in it. Or something.
“Do you have homework tonight?” Mom asked at dinner.
“Nope,” I said, dipping a fry in ketchup. “We’re starting a new unit tomorrow in math, and I did all the reading I was supposed to do for language arts.”
Mom slurped her Coke, and we started giggling because we both looked shocked. Jack and I aren’t allowed to slurp.
“What’s the math unit?” Mom said.
“Percentages,” I said, and I shuddered just as Mom was saying “nice!”
“What do you mean, ‘nice?’” I said, thinking it was a little indecent for a grown-up to get so excited about math. “Aren’t percentages hard?”
“Oh no,” she said. “They’re easy. And so helpful.”
“How are they helpful?” I asked. “Like for making pie charts and stuff?”
“Yes, for that,” she said. “But also for things like...well, for example, for this.” She reached across the table for the greasy check the waiter had just stuck in a glass. “When you know about percentages, you can figure out how to calculate the tip when you go to a restaurant.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Well, we’re supposed to tip the waiter about 15%. Once you learn about percentages, you’ll know how to do that and figure out how much you should pay.”
“That’s helpful for boring grown-up stuff like paying for dinner,” I said. “But do percentages help with anything exciting?”
“Sure they do,” Mom said. “I use them all the time in my business.”
I sat up straighter, because I love when mom tells me about her business. “How?” I said.
“To figure out profit,” she said.
“Like how much money you make?”
“Yes--and more complicated than that. Like how much it costs to run the business, and how much it costs to make a certain product. And then using percentages to figure out what the price of a product should be, depending on what percent profit we’re aiming for. Math is what makes the business keep going and growing.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s pretty important.”
“Sure is,” Mom said. “And every real business does that. For example, behind that burger you just wolfed down,” (here, she paused to wink at me) “behind that burger is a team of people figuring out, okay, it costs so much to get the meat and the seasoning and to pay someone to actually grill the burger. And they take all those factors into consideration when deciding to charge us…” she looked down at the bill and her eyebrows went up, like they do when she comes home and Jack and I have built a fort in the living room, or when Dad’s art supplies are all over the kitchen table. “Wow. $8.99? I thought this was fast food!”
“They must be making a big percent of profit,” I said.
Mom smiled then and leaned over the booth to kiss me on top of the head. I guess it must run in the family, because all of a sudden I was as excited about math as she was.
The only other grown-up I know who loves math like Mom does is Ms. Hopewell, our teacher. The fifth graders are the luckiest, because she’s the best teacher in the whole school, and everybody knows it. She’s super smart; there are all kinds of rumors that before she was a teacher, she used to work for NASA or the CIA or the White House. I don’t believe them, though; I think she was born to be the best teacher in the world.
Even though she’s so smart, she doesn’t talk down to us, and I think that’s what I like best about her. My third grade teacher was really smart too, but she always acted like we were just kids. Ms. Hopewell asks for everyone’s ideas, and she actually listens. Plus, she wears cool clothes and knows all the words to “Fight Song.” I love her.
On Thursday, she taught us about percentages.
“Who knows what percent means?” she said. Bailey’s hand shot up. Ms. Hopewell looked around the room first, because Bailey’s hand is usually the first in the air when we’re in math class--it’s her very favorite subject. When no one else raised their hand, Ms. Hopewell smiled.
“It means ‘out of a hundred,’ right?” Bailey said. “Per, out of, cent, 100!”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” she said with a smile. “Now, from our work over the past few weeks, what does it mean when we say something is out of something else? Cara?” she added quickly, as Bailey almost fell out of her seat from raising her hand.
“Um,” I said, caught off guard from watching Perry imitate Bailey out of the corner of my eye. “Well, it means it’s a fraction,” I said. “So if you say something is ‘out of a hundred,’ it means that 100 is in the denominator.”
“Good,” said Ms. Hopewell. “Can you give me an example, Maya?” Maya smiled calmly. Maya is always really calm.
“Sure,” she said. “For example, eight out of a hundred would be 8/100. Or eight hundredths. 0.08.”
“So good!” Ms. Hopewell said. “That’s exactly right. And that’s about half of what you need to know about percentages. Now, how many students do we have in this room?”
“22!” we sang in unison.
“Great. Now say we wanted to figure out what 10% of 22 is. That really means that we want to figure out how 10 out of 100 compares to 22. So we break it down by the language of the question. Ten percent of. What did we say ‘of’ means in math? Christopher?”
“Uh, it means to times it?” Christopher said.
“Multiply it, yes,” said Ms. Hopewell. So if we put all that language together, what does that mean in mathspeak? Mackenzie?”
“I think it means…” Kenzie squinted at the board, where Ms. Hopewell was writing out the words ten percent of 22. “I think it means we should do 10/100, or 0.10, times 22.”
“Great work, Mackenzie,” said Ms. Hopewell. “And what is 0.10 times 22?” We bent down over our desks to do it out by hand, but before anyone had even touched pencil to paper, Bailey’s hand was up. You had to admire that, I thought, and Ms. Hopewell must have agreed with me, because she called on her again.
“It’s 2.2!” Bailey said. “Right?”
“Exactly right,” said Ms. Hopewell. “And those, girls and boys, are the easy-peasy basics of percentages.”
“This isn’t so hard,” said Perry later on, when we were doing math homework on the bus. “This percentage stuff is more like figuring out a sentence than real math.” Perry doesn’t think she’s good at math, which makes me sad, because she’s one of those people who can figure out anything--as long as she believes she can.
“It’s not hard,” I agreed. “And it’s super important for like, businesses and stuff.”
“So you’ll use this when you start The Cara Times?” Perry teased. She knows about my secret plan to start my own business.
“That’s right,” I said. “And I’ll use it to figure out how to pay you the least!”
Anyway, when we made the bracelets at Maya’s that Friday, we were all so excited with how different they turned out. Since she already had one, Rory was running around from person to person, squealing with excitement as she saw each of our friend’s personalities coming out in the choices they made.
We decided to all wear them to school on Monday, and that’s when things got crazy. I didn’t think anyone would notice, but everyone did. Maybe it was because Ms. Hopewell said something during morning meeting, when we were saying the pledge of allegiance and writing down our goals for the day.
“That’s a pretty bracelet, Cara,” she said when I raised my hand and my sleeve went down to my elbow.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Hey look, Anjali has one too!” said Desiree, pointing.
“And so does Perry!” said Chris.
We looked at each other, and I bit my lip. I didn’t want anyone to feel left out.
“We made them the other night,” said Maya, staying very chill. “It was just for fun.”
“Well, they’re very pretty,” said Ms. Hopewell.
“Let me see,” whispered Jill, who sits next to me, during silent reading, twenty minutes later.
“What?” I whispered back, looking over my shoulder to see where Ms. Hopewell was. I didn’t want to get in trouble.
“Your bracelet!” she said. I stuck out my arm.
“Ooh,” she said. “That’s real pretty.”
“Really pretty, Jill,” said Ms. Hopewell, coming up behind her. “Not real pretty. And this is supposed to be silent reading, not chit-chat reading.”
“Sorry Ms. Hopewell,” we said in chorus.
After Ms. Hopewell walked away, Jill leaned back in.
“Could you make me one?” she said. “Shhh!” I said back.
At lunch, we debriefed what had happened.
“Well, I guess it’s official,” announced Mackenzie. “Everyone loves our bracelets.”
“Jill even asked if we could make her one during silent reading,” I told them.
“That’s weird,” said Anjali. “So did Stacey or Tracey.” Stacey and Tracey were identical twins who had moved here this year, and Anj still couldn’t tell them apart.
“So did Lizzie and Yuting, while I was passing out worksheets,” said Rory. “And I heard Priya say that they were cuter than the bracelet Megan just got from a real store.” Rory’s the worksheet monitor this week, so she hears all the good gossip.
We looked at each other.
“Should we make bracelets for everyone?” asked Perry. “I don’t want the rest of the girls to think we’re being cliquey or something.”
“We could,” said Mackenzie. “But that’s gonna get really expensive. How much did it cost to buy the supplies when you were with your mom, Cara?”
“A lot,” I said. “It was thirty-six dollars.”
“So that’s six dollars per bracelet, because Rory already had one,” said Bailey.
“Yikes,” said Mackenzie. “I don’t know about you guys, but I only get five dollars a week for an allowance, and I’m saving up to go to debate camp next summer.”
“Yeah, my allowance is five dollars too,” said Maya.
“Mine’s only two-fifty,” said Perry.
“I don’t even get an allowance!” said Anjali, throwing up her hands. The rest of the girls nodded sympathetically; this was an ongoing battle between Anjali and her parents. Bailey said nothing. I looked at her and bit my lip. Bailey doesn’t get an allowance either. Neither do I, for that matter, but Bailey’s pretty sensitive about it, because sometimes her family can’t afford stuff. I wish Anjali hadn’t said that.
And then something occurred to me.
“Guys,” I said, sitting up a little straighter. “We’re going to make bracelets for everyone who wants one.”
“But how…” started Bailey, looking worried.
“And,” I said, putting up one finger. “We’re going to charge for them.”
Perry tilted her head at me. Rory and Maya looked at each other.
“Don’t you see?” I said, getting excited. “We’re going to start a business!”
Mackenzie started to smile. Anjali shook her head, but she was grinning from ear to ear.
“We can call it Brookies’ Bracelets,” I said, “after all the girls at Willowbrook Elementary! And we’ll advertise it to everyone at school--not just the girls in our class.”
“We’re building a business! We’re building a business!” Perry chanted.
“So what do you say?” I said, looking at around at all six of my best friends. “Who’s in?”
“In!” said Perry immediately.
“In,” said Rory and Maya.
“In,” said Mackenzie, Maya, and Bailey.
And when they all said it, I got goosebumps--I really did. I felt all tingly. Mom said a good entrepreneur always knows when to seize an opportunity. Had I really just done that?
“But how much are we going to charge?” said Maya. “A week’s worth of allowance? Two weeks’?”
“No,” I said firmly. “We’re going to make sure this business can grow. So we’re going to figure out what percent profit we want to make after putting in six of our own dollars into each bracelet.” I looked at Bailey. “We’re going to use math to build our business.”
“Yes!” she shrieked, fist-pumping the air.
At any other time, I probably would have rolled my eyes if she had done that. But today, I just smiled--and gave her a high five.
Continue to Chapter Four
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