1. Find a student who has flunked geometry three times and who insists, I know the stuff, I just don’t do good in big classes. Believe it. 
  2. Ask her if she’d like to make a quilt for her geometry credit.  When it looks like she may be interested in the idea, hook her by showing her photos of amazing quilts that have geometric patterns. 
  3. Bring in the baby quilt, not yet finished, that you are making for your grandson, not yet born, and put it on her lap.
  4. Teach her about tessellations and spend the first classes designing and measuring and figuring out how much of each material she will need.  
  5. Take her to the fabric store and watch, delighted, as flowered prints and purples and reds and greens fill the shopping basket. When she chooses a piece of material of movie posters try very hard to accept it. 
  6. Sometime after the sewing has begun, and the math notebook is ignored for weeks, begin to worry that your student is not really learning geometry.  She’s learning sewing and she’s learning to fix a broken bobbin, but really, geometry?
  7. Remind yourself that this kid needs a quilt as much as she needs geometry. 
  8. Remember, also, the very, very old woman who taught you hat-making one night long ago.  She had gone to school only through 5th grade because, she said, she was a Black child in the deep south and that’s how it was back then.  Think about how she explained to the hat-making class that to figure out the length of the hat’s brim, you needed to measure from the center to the edge with a string and then do “three of those and a little bit more,” and remember how you sat in awe, because three radii and little bit more is the definition of pi, and this hat-maker had evidently discovered for herself the formula for circumference. 
  9. Wonder what it is about quilting that inspires talk about mothers—yours, who died too young (and who received your first quilt on her last Mother’s Day) and your student’s mother who is raising none of the eleven children to whom she gave birth. 
  10. Scold your student when she tells you she thinks she’ll give you the quilt when it’s finished. Tell her no, in order to get a semester of geometry credit she must keep the quilt for herself. 
  11. When, on her boyfriend’s birthday, she thinks about giving the quilt to him, remind her that she flunks if she gives it away, and enjoy her laughing at you and your fake rules.
  12. Listen as she talks about her family and wonders if she’d recognize her younger sister and brother and maybe give one of them the quilt.  Do not make the joke about flunking her then, because you know about missing children and the longing to give them treasured gifts.
  13. Scold her in earnest when she shows up late, again.  Get extremely annoyed, not only because you always get annoyed when students are late, but also because you give her your lunch hour twice a week.  When she storms out and says Just flunk me like everyone else is doing, let her go. 
  14. Worry all weekend that the quilt is more important to you than it is to the student.  Wonder what you will do with all that material if she does indeed quit coming.  Give yourself the usual lecture on student responsibility that always includes points like it’s her choice whether or not she completes the work; it’s her choice whether or not she gets geometry credit; it’s her choice whether or not she graduates.
  15. When you see her walking into school the following Monday morning, say as casually as you possibly can, See you upstairs at noon, and feel great relief when she nods.
  16. Realize after couple months that she is more playful in the sewing room, and that she sometimes smiles at you and at the quilt.  Know then that you are not really giving her five hours of credit for geometry or for quilt-making; you are giving her credit for something less tangible.  Something like pride.  Five credit hours for feeling she can accomplish something hard that, okay, is slightly related to geometry.     
  17. Feel pretty certain you can live with that.