Wednesday, 10 October 2012

It's a Calcutastrophe!

Today I have had to leave an internal maths exam half finished once again, due to issues with calculators. But these aren't normal calculator problems, oh no my friend, these seem to be incredible feats of electrical fault. So if you feel like something a bit spooky and geeky, here it is:

Ok, last week I was off ill from school a fair bit with a horrible stress thing that seemed to turn me into an angry, sleepy, snivelling, vomitting monster. I rose out of my duvet this monday morning feeling a lot better and ready to face school again. During my absence I missed an internal maths exam. 'Hey ho' I thought. 're-sit'. Not so easy!

The first hour of my exam went well, despite it being a very difficult paper I was pleased with my progress. I was using my popular make of talking calculator which had accompanied me to maths lessons and exams the whole of the last academic year. It's when I moved on to use my extra time (100%) that the trouble started. A whole eight minutes into my time my talking calculator made the most amazing high frequency, top volume, continuous squeal in my ear and proceeded to continue for the next ten minutes as both of my teaching assistants, after stopping my time, rapidly tried to bring it back into normal, mathematical life. They turned it on, they turned it off, they replaced the ear phones- nothing could stop it. When the buzzing did eventually die the speech on the calculator was silent, with random unprompted out bursts of "7 Trillion 300 and 1".

Two Identicle blue calculators on a desk with a woman's hand unravelling new headphones to try in them.

Moving onto a new tac, and my time still stopped, one of my TA's ran out of the classroom that had been booked specially and to the maths department to collect another VI girls calculator- one that was hardly ever used as the other pupil can use normal calculators. She put the new calculator down, takes a seat next to my other TA and tells me I can reopen my paper. I type in the first number and... BEEEEEEP... exactly the same thing. This time a nice little error message that wasn't written in the manual as even existing came up too. The poor calculator was screaming like I had shoved a knife through it, if it wasn't inanimate of course (because I do like personification). We called it a day at that point, presuming (however odd) it was some kind of signal interruption.

That brings us onto today, Wednesday. After many phone calls to the visual impairment service technicians the two; identical, seemingly broken, calculators were picked up and replaced with another calculator, also identical, but which I was assured was brand new and would work. Guess what? It didn't! I had barely started where I'd left off when the deafening screech piped up again, so loud that the whole room turned in alarm at the noise protruding from my headphones. My TA looked bewildered, and I was too frustrated and confused to be anything else really. I went back with her to the VI office where she made yet another call to the technicians who guided her through several steps to make the calculator shut up. All the time my other teaching assistant, who witnessed calculator saga one and two, could only say "How?!". At this point I was becoming mildly perplexed that at some point, someone might accuse me of purposely doing something to them. But I couldn't be, it was a perfectly normal calculation, the kind i'd used done on this kind of calculator for years.

A picture of my Dad looking bankly at my red home calculator
My Dad trying to work out how to stop my
calculator screaming.
Everyone was pretty confused at this point, and my SENCO was away, so the best plan we could think of was for my parents to invigilate the exam and for me to use my own, personal, calculator of the same make to do the exam. These calculators cost £500 each, and with it being my own calculator bought by my parents, we didn't want to risk taking it to school. My Dad sits down next to me, passes over my paper (really enjoying playing as an invigilator) and the clock had barely started when... BEEEEEP. "I don't BELIEVE it!" We both say at the same time. Same saga: screeching, changing headphones- still screeching, turning on and off, speech disappears. This went on for half an hour, alternating between high pitch wails from the calculator and eerie silence from the headphones. At this point I show my Dad the calculation- "That's not unreasonable is it? I'm not overloading it?" Dad assures me that any calculator should be able to do that sum, and tells me that it can't be the equation. He asks questions about the other calculators, and also asks me if I've noticed getting a lot of static shocks recently.

That must be it- I have magical hands of mathematical destruction. So there is a lot to sort out tomorrow, such as calling the company to ask if it is some kind of suicide chip in all of the calculators we've tried, and working out what to do. So there you have it- four calculators which had never had a single fault before, including one new out of the box, broken at the same time. I don't believe I am being hasty in calling this a calcutastrophe!

1 comment:

  1. LOVE! I enjoyed your post but I am so sorry you've got fingers of death for calculators. Hope it is all resolved soon.