A June 9 KidsPost item said that Texas Instruments might replace as many as 150,000 calculators in use in Virginia schools. A company spokesman said that 97 percent of the calculators have been replaced. (Published 6/10/2005)

Virginia, Do We Have a Decimal Problem?

* Thousands of calculators used in Virginia schools are being recalled -- all because of a 12-year-old boy as honest as he is smart.

Two years ago the state asked Texas Instruments to make a special calculator for Virginia schools. On this model, the function that changes decimals to fractions was disabled, because students in Virginia must be able to work fractions with pencil and paper to pass state-required tests.

In January, Dakota Brown, a sixth-grader in Chesterfield County, figured out that by pressing two keys on his TI-30 Xa SE VA (special-edition Virginia) calculator, he could convert decimals to fractions anyway.

If you had been in Dakota's shoes, what would you have done with that information?

Dakota told his teacher, who told a math administrator, who told state officials, who told Texas Instruments. "His fellow students were so proud of him. . . . They thought it was really, really cool," said math specialist Michael Bolling. "They didn't call him a nerd or anything."

As a result of Dakota's discovery, the county got 11,000 new calculators. As many as 150,000 others still in use in Virginia also could be replaced.

Texas Instruments sent Dakota a graphing calculator, "which he loved," one educator said.

Newly issued calculator, left, does not convert decimals to fractions.