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A math story: Vera Iggamera and the big dance

Some fifteen years ago, I was trying to come up with a "clever" way of teaching students about positive and negative numbers. I wanted to create something visual to help them learn this sometimes-difficult concept.
I decided to try my hand at writing a story. Thus, the birth of "Vera Iggamera and the Big Dance."  I chose bees to help teach the concept- good bees versus bad bees- positives and negatives. I wanted to show that: positives added together, negatives added together, and when positives and negatives "hung out together", they made each other sick and all fell to the floor, creating a "zero" or "zero pair".

I also had lofty ambitions of creating a set of questions that went along with this story, both related to real-life and simple mathematical situations so that students could practice using positives and negatives together. In my dreams, I even hoped that one day I could publish this little story so that others could use it to help teach this concept. 

I found a VERY gifted artist, Lena McCoy (who is also a Russian Immigrant) to become my illustrator. She and I created a story-board of this entire story, along with potential illustrations, and sent them and the story off to several publishers. 

Alas, no one wanted to publish it. Which is alright. Now, I realize that this story needs MUCH work for it to be in a final form. Still, I thought students might get a kick out of my attempts to write something that could be used in a math setting. 

And, so I present this work here:

Vera Iggamera and the Big Dance: Illustrated by Lena McCoy and written by Cheryl McCarrey, 1999

Once upon a time, in a far away land, where the ostriches wore orange glasses and the camels ate dark chocolate, lived a girl by the name of Vera Iggamera. She played with the blue boom-catchalotta ruffled rabbits and knitted sorificus shaped slippers for the short-legged sheepdogs.

 During her spare time, Vera loved sitting in the park. The camels that ate dark chocolate would sometimes play with the ostriches that wore orange glasses. They would chase each other around in circles, jumping over benches, crawling under chaw-taw trees, and slinking through the shimmering sand, playing tag. Vera giggled as she watched them play. Oh, how silly they looked.

One day, as Vera sat in the park reading to her snoring, short-legged sheepdog, Harry, into town flew the cheerful and helpful Cobberwolly bees. They had flown in for the year's grandest social, the Big Dance. Bee-decked in their black and red dinner jackets, the Cobberwolly bees looked superbly sharp.

Flying here and there, they cheered and helped anyone who was sad or afraid. They gladdened Olaf, the Ostrich, when he broke his orange glasses. Why, they even gave Charlotte, the camel, back her dark chocolate that Rupert, the blue boom-catchalotta ruffled rabbit had taken. When two bees flew to clean up garbage that was in the sand, four more flew over to help and offer their assistance. The six of them made the dirty place clean again. Those cheerful and helpful Cobberwolly bees stuck together in all they did. 

They were loved by everyone- by everyone except those nefarious and dastardly Nee-gum Goonum bees who had followed them into town. Their jackets were green and yellow with black polka-dots. They were sloppy and unkempt.

Unlike the Cobberwolly bees, the Nee-gum Goonum bees were exactly the opposite. They were dastardly in their pranks, moving chairs when the ostriches went to sit down, and melting the chocolate so that the camels could not eat it. They yelled "fire" at the ice-cream parlor
and laughed and laughed when the people scampered and ran away. As Marvin S. Marvin came running from the ice-cream parlor, three of the nefarious Nee-gum Goonum bees tapped him on his shoulder. As he turned around, six more Nee-gum Goonum bees untied Marvin's shoes. Those nine bees laughed and smirked when Marvin slipped on his shoelaces and fell into a big puddle. The Nee-gum Goonum bees were causing quite a stir.

The Cobberwolly bees looked on, feeling bee-gusted and un-bee-mused.

It was simply fair to say that the Coberwolly and the Nee-gum Goonum bees wanted nothing to do with each other. And, that bothered Vera.

That night, after Vera had eaten her pretty, pink pork-chops, and her gigantic green salad for dinner, had put her snoring, short-legged sheepdog, Harry, into his adorable, un-dainty doghouse, and had kissed her delightfully dear parents goodnight, she went to bed.

Vera tossed and turned, worried and fretted over the Cobberwolly and Nee-gum Goonum bees. How could she help them like each other? There must be a way. There must be a way... there must be- "I have it!", exclaimed Vera. Then, she promptly fell asleep.

The next morning, at precisely six-o-three a.m., Vera sprung from her bed. Quickly, she dressed. As the capable caterer for the Big Dance, she had much to do. All day long, Vera baked and cooked. She made flower-shaped peanut-butter cookies, ant-smelling, savory tomato sandwiches, graciously green punch, and swell chocolate creamy eclairs. After all, the camels who ate dark chocolate and the ostriches who wore orange glasses would also be there.

At the dance hall, Vera decorated the floor with beautiful arcs which she made with her arc-mark-marking pencil. At last, all was ready.

Dressed in her frilly, favorite, forever-turquoise party dress, Vera awaited the guests. Soon, the Cobberwolly bees arrived on the backs of camels and ostriches. Of course, those Nee-gum Goonum bees came much later, for they had purposely slept in so they could be untimely not on time.

Thus, the Big Dance began. 

When the music started, the orange-glasses wearing ostriches and the dark-chocolate eating camels began swinging with their sweeties and tangoing with their tootsies. And, the bees! Their feet were tapping, their bee hips were a-moving, and even their little bee fingers were keeping time with the music. Soon, those busy bee bodies made a bee-line to the dance floor, shaking and twisting and stomping to the music. 

Although they all seemed to be having fun, the Cobberwolly and the Nee-gum Goonum bees stayed far away from each other. Vera thought, "This is my chance. If only I can get the bees to move to the middle of the dance floor and dance together, perhaps they can bee-come friends."

She invited six of the Cobberwolly bees and six of the Nee-gum Goonum bees to the middle of the floor. The twelve bees came, but rather reluctantly. Carefully and cautiously, Vera chose the music for this hoped-for magical musical moment. She put on Sting-maninoff's Concerto in Bee-natural. No bee could resist this pleasurable and inviting music, and soon the twelve bees were swaying and dancing to the music.

But, a strange phenomenon began to happen. It seemed that whenever the Cobberwolly and the Nee-gum Goonum bees got too close to each other, they began feeling dippsy-dizzy. One by one, the twelve bees fell to the floor, feeling oh, so dippsy-dizzy and sick.

The bees were rushed to the hospital. Vera was at their side. This was where she was needed. The best doctors were called in to help. All night, the bees were bee-tested and bee-x-rayed. Yet, they kept feeling sick.

At four fifty-nine a.m., Doctor Naomi Naples, who had flown in from New Norflick not more than nine hours ago, yelled excitedly, "I know what the problem is! These bees are allergic to each other! When they get within dancing distance of each other, they have altogether allergic reactions, causing them to feel dippsy-dizzy and sick!"

A slightly sweet, syrupy serum was made for the bees, and soon the Cobberwolly bees were feeling cheerful and helpful and the Nee-gum Goonum bees were feeling nefarious and dastardly.

And, so ended the night of the Big Dance.

As she walked home from the hospital, Vera decided that, despite her decidedly dedicated plan to get the bees dancing and friendly with each other, she would leave them alone. After all, she could not have dippsy-dizzy bees on her conscience now,

Could she?

The end

Copyright © 1999 Cheryl McCarrey (URL:http://www.mathroom107.com/2014/08/a-math-story-vera-iggamera-and-big-dance.html). Readers may distribute this post for noncommercial purposes provided such distributing is of the entire post, including author's copyright and contact information.