Thursday, 18 Jul 2024

Virginia Fifth Grader Is Celebrated for Spotting Textbook’s Error

Liam Squires, like many students, usually answers the question “How was school today?” with an evasive answer along the lines of “I don’t know.”

This is why weeks passed before his mother, Megan Squires, learned that he had spotted an error in a science textbook that the publisher, dozens of students and his own teacher had missed.

Liam, 10, had noticed that two rocks were misplaced in a diagram of the rock cycle. The significance of his discovery was not clear to his mother until months later in March, when Liam was praised by the school district superintendent and received a letter from the textbook’s publisher.

Liam saw the mistake toward the end of a school day at H.M. Pearson Elementary School in Catlett, Va., about 50 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.

“I was just going through it, and since we had only recently first learned about the rock cycle, I remembered it pretty good,” Liam said. “And I was like, ‘That isn’t right,’ when I saw the error.”

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For those who may need a refresher on the rock cycle, it is the process that explains how the three main types of rocks — igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary — form and transform, according to the University of California, Berkeley.

In the review section of the “Exploring Science All Around Us” textbook that Liam’s class used, the sedimentary rock and igneous rock were swapped into the wrong spots in the rock cycle. The Fauquier Times reported on Liam’s discovery.

He immediately told his teacher, Serena Porter, who at first thought that there could not be an error in the textbook and worried that she had been incorrectly teaching the rock cycle.

Then, she looked more closely at the diagram.

“My eyes have been on that page, and other adult eyes, and no one saw that,” Ms. Porter said. “I was just blown away that he had found it.”

Ms. Porter said that the books were new and that her class had received them halfway through the school year.

Liam noticed the mistake before winter break, shortly after his class got the new books. Ms. Porter informed the Fauquier County Public Schools system’s head of science, Linda Correll, who contacted the textbook’s publisher, Five Ponds Press.

Months went by, but in early March, Ms. Porter learned that Five Ponds Press had written a letter to Liam acknowledging the mistake and had sent him stickers and buttons. In the letter, the publisher said it was “proud” of Liam.

“Who knows? Maybe one day you will be a geologist studying the Earth, or maybe you will be an author writing your own book!” the letter said. “Either way, your future is bright. Great job paying such close attention in class.”

The publisher did not respond to a request for comment by The New York Times.

Now that Liam has been praised for the find, Ms. Porter said her students have been searching through all of their textbooks looking for errors. So far, they have found a few missing periods but nothing like the rock cycle mistake.

Ms. Porter called Liam a great student with an analytical mind. “It doesn’t actually surprise me out of all my students out of the entire fifth grade that he’s the one that would have found the error,” she said.

And as a teacher, she said, there was a clear lesson in his discovery.

“We’re all human, and whether it’s an adult or a child, we all make mistakes,” Ms. Porter said. “You don’t want to roll around pointing out everyone’s little mistakes, but you should be proud that you caught something like this.”

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