The teenagers in Stephanie Nichols’s algebra class have nothing on her blank stare. And they can’t even come close to her best confused expression: eyebrows furrowed, mouth frowning, a flash of ditziness framed by a blond bob.
“Sorry if I’m the slow kid,” she said, slowly, during a lesson on slope. “I don’t get it.” As students calculated problems on the board, she interrupted, “I’m really lost. . . . How did you do that?” Occasionally, she was more blunt: “Huh?”
Nichols’s vacant looks and incessant questions put the students at Arlington County’s Washington-Lee High School in the uncomfortable position of being the math teacher, explaining how the numbers on the white board relate to each other, how algebra actually works.