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It was in my first class. I was seven. I had to do those additions: 6+7=12 or 13? 5+8=24 or 23 or 22? I was looking at my fingers, counting, recounting and I was so nervous about these figures. They were turning around in my head.

I walked to my teacher, an elderly woman, a Mademoiselle, certainly not married, with heavy glasses and a strong voice. She sat at a table, two steps above the floor. She took my sheet of calculations. Her red pencil was like a weapon. She destroyed all my nice additions – with a red dash.

I stepped back to my pupil desk – with a red face.

It has been a real fight – my figures and me. My father, a professor of mathematics, was desperate.

My mother even cried when we left after the talk with my teacher. How could I do this? Her daughter was so stupid. It was her first big crisis as a parent.

Wednesday afternoon, when my friends used to play on the street, I sat with my father repeating additions. As I couldn’t concentrate well, he closed the rolling shutters and we sat under the artificial light.

“Your daughter won’t be able to go to a high school later”, my teacher said to my father.

My father believed her and not in me.


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