Mr. Arthur A. Collins

(Ep 25 - "Math Class")

Take your seats and open your textbooks to unit one. Page sixteen. We will begin...with the introduction to variables.
Who is this guy?
My name is Mr. Collins. If we use a symbol, such as "X" to represent the unspecified member of the set...
So much for introductions.
In a Venn diagram. "S" is the replacement symbol for the variable "X".
We'd never seen anything like him. He was a math machine. All math...all the time. With the chalk marks to prove it.
If the union of sets "S" and "T" is negative two and zero, what is the intersection?
Faced with this implacable force...
(A girl timidly raises her hand.)
We rose to the challenge.
Yes.
Mr. Collins, how did you learn to draw such neat circles?
Each in our own way.
It is not neccessary to draw perfect circles to do these problems correctly - it will not affect your grade either way.
But nothing distracted him.
(Harold raises his hand. Mr. Collins points to him.)
Is this like stuff that you could use to figure out Tom Seaver's earned-run average?
Not the amazing Mets...
No...That would be simple arithmetic.
(Another boy holds his arm up enthusiastically.)
Ooh, ooh.
Not even the cries of the tortured.
(Mr. Collins smiles slightly and turns back to the board.)
The answer is the set...(writes)...of negative two...and zero. We further illustrate...
We threw everything we had at him.
(Fade to later. Mr. Collins is writing on the board. He has taken off his jacket.)
To describe the relationship between set "B"...
But we didn't have a chance.
Of positive numbers. Now, these numbers...and their negatives in set "A"...make up the set of rational numbers.
(A boy turns toward Kevin.)
Psst. What page are we on?
No talking! Any rational number...
Sheesh - I mean...come on! Who died and made this guy king?
(Kevin looks toward Paul and gestures slightly. Mr. Collins moves closer.)
Yes? Do you have a problem?
Um...No.
(The bell rings. Students stand up.)
For tomorrow...I would like you to do problems one through ten on page eighteen.
Boy, what's the story with this guy? He's gonna kill us.
*
(Kevin looks at his quiz.)
"D"?
Here are the results of your pop-quiz.
"D"?!
It was horrible. I'd never gotten a "D" before. Not even in...penmanship.
(The bell rings, and students start to rise.)
For homework...problems fifteen through twenty-five, on page twenty.
There was only one possible explanation. This had to be a mistake.
(Paul approaches Kevin.)
Kev - you comin' to lunch?
In a minute - I have to talk to Collins.
OK...but hurry up - Sloppy Joes today. (Exits.)
I had to handle this with a little tact.
Hi. (Smiles.)
(Mr. Collins continues to make notes.)
After all, the man was human.
Yes?
So much for that theory.
Um...I have a question about my quiz.
Yes?
(Mr. Collins looks at Kevin slightly puzzled.)
Well, it's a "D". (Smiles.)
Yes, it is.
Well, I...think it might be wrong.
(Kevin smiles and shrugs slightly.)
Well, let's take a look.
(Mr. Collins puts on his glasses, rests his forehead against his hand and studies the quiz.)
You're right...
(Kevin smiles.)
There - that wasn't so hard.
(Mr. Collins marks the quiz.)
Number five should be...minus one-half...that's half off...this is a "D minus".
(Mr. Collins hands the quiz back.)
Thank you for calling that to my attention.
Oh...
(Kevin starts to walk away slowly, then pauses.)
Now wait a darn minute, here!
Mr. Collins?!
What?
Well...
If you're having a problem, I run a help group after schools...on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! This guy was getting entirely the wrong impression. I had to nip this in the bud, and fast.
No, it-it's just I don't think of myself as a "D" student.
Really?
Well, it's just that it's a little unusual, don't you think? I mean, a quiz on the second day of school?
*
What I'm saying is that...I wasn't as prepared as I might have been.
*
Well...I don't think this is representative of the work I usually do.
Then I look forward to seeing your results on future quizzes. Anything else?
No. That's fine.
Sure, fine. Just fine. If that's how Collins wanted to play it.
*

Over the next few days...things went from bad to worse.
Mr. Arnold?
Yes?
The intersection of sets "B" and "C"...
Um...."X" plus four?
Incorrect. Mr. Pfeiffer?
One and two?
Correct. Expressed as sets...that means "X" represents the set...
*

That afternoon...I just happened to pass by Mr. Collins' classroom. By accident, of course. So, what was the big deal. Maybe I'd drop in...get a few tips from the old help-group.
(Kevin looks in the window and frowns.)
Wait a minute.
(Shot of one girl and three boys, all looking bored.)
This was the help group? Jeff Bledsoe thought the Boston tea party was a dispute over cheese. Frank Barnes had been in the eight-grade since the Eisenhower administration. In the delicate ecosystem of junior high...these guys were - well let's face it - bottom-feeders.
(Kevin takes a few steps backwards, then turns. Mr. Collins is standing in the hallway, and Kevin stops in front of him.)
Are you joining us?
(Kevin backs away slowly.)
Uh...no. I just...left something in your class. My pencil. (Smiles.)
I'm giving a major test next week. It would be a good opportunity...for you to bring up your grade.
Yeah. Well, uh...thanks for telling me, but uh...I really have to be going. (Smiles.)
(Mr. Collins looks at Kevin, then opens the door.)
Sheesh. Who did he think I was? Some kind of...loser?
*

(Kevin turns in his test after the other students leave.)
You don't have to grade it. I got an "F". I didn't answer any of the questions. I don't understand math. I'm - I'm lousy at it. I - I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.
Good.
Huh?
Maybe now you're ready to start.
Well wait a minute. I just told you - I failed!
There will be another test in two weeks.
*

(In class, after Kevin has gotten some homework help from Jack.)
Tells us for each real non-zero number, "A", there exists a real number, one over "A", such that "A" times one over "A" equals one.
There are times in life when you think you're lost.
Kevin. Can you simplify the quotient?
Um...
When every turn you take seems wrong.
One-fifth.
No. Try again.
Then, just for a moment...you see a light.
Negative one-fifth.
Correct. Now you can also simplify...by using the absolute value of factors.
(Fade to evening in Kevin's room. Kevin is at his desk.)
And so I began that long climb into the light.
(Kevin sighs.)
Only this time...
(Jack is holding Kevin's book, and approaches him. He rests his hands on the chair and the desk, and looks at Kevin's work.)
I wasn't alone.

(Ep 32 - "Math Class Squared")

Sometimes heroes are easy to spot. But sometimes...they turn up in unlikely places.
*
Mr. Collin's and I had be through a lot - a lot of math, anyway. We kinda started out on the wrong foot. But the more I got to know him, the more I, well...I liked the guy.
And that is how we solve equations involving a single radical.
He wasn't exactly what you'd call "cool".
Questions? Mr. McCormick.
Is there any of this stuff we should know for the test?
All of it.
All of it?
I wouldn't teach it if I didn't think you should know it.
But he was fair.
I suggest in particular that you study the equation on the board. That is likely to be on your quiz.
You had to respect the guy - at least I did. And I like to think that respect was mutual.
Mr. Arnold. Do you find something amusing?
Uh, no. Nothing.
(Bell rings.)
For tomorrow, review unit 14 "Roots and Radicals".
What a doofus.
Maybe to some, but to me - the man was kind of a hero. He made me want to do my best. Not that my best was anything to brag about, but...
*

(Kevin found out some guys are cheating on math tests.)
Have your pencils ready - books off the desk. You have twenty minutes to complete this quiz.
I almost felt sorry for these guys - did they actually believe they could pull it off?
Begin.
(Mr. Collins hovers around McCormick.)
Well, that didn't take long. Here it came - target sighted. Lock on radar, and...I believe we have contact...
(Mr. Collins walks away.)
Huh?
I couldn't believe it! Collins had missed it. Right under his nose, and he missed it.
Mr. Arnold. Is something distracting you?
No, sir.
Then I would suggest you concentrate on your own work.
Yessir.
OK, sure - if that's the way he wanted it. Let McCormick cheat - it wasn't my problem, anyway. Nope - I'd just go about getting my usual "C"'s, here.
*

A "D"! You got a "D"?
I don't understand. I mean, I got a 72. Last week I got a 72 and it was a "C".
Let me see this. Hmmm...he must be grading on the curve. It's kinda a parabolic way of grading. Imagine...the grade distibution of your class - it's like a bell -
Paul, I know what a curve is. So what you're saying is...if there were some students who were getting "C"'s and "D"'s last week, and this week were getting "A"'s and "B"'s...
Great...
But I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure it's just temporary.
What makes you think that?
Well, the entire grade average doesn't change over night - that much is obvious.
Uh-huh. Obvious to Paul, maybe.
(Cut to math class. Dramatic music plays as Mr. Collins approaches.)
But what about to Mr. Collins? It was time for Mr. Tough-But-Fair to put a stop to this.
(Mr. Collins hesitates, then walks past McCormick again.)
(Sotto voce): Oh, come on.
It was so obvious! Right out in the open. Could Mr. Collins be so...blind?
(Bell rings.)
It was time to have a little talk.
Mr. Collins?
Yes?
Well...do they always have to come from the book?
That is what I told the class at the beginning of the term.
Yeah, well...isn't that a little bit predictable?
Kevin? Are you having a problem?
Uh, no! It's just this...curve, sir. Well, don't you think it's a little unfair?
No, I don't think so.
Well...it just seems to me that...this system might not be right...for...this class, anyway.
There! I'd practically drawn him a map. What was he gonna to say to that?
Thank you for your feedback, Mr. Arnold. But I would suggest that you not concern yourself with the rest of the class.
Huh?
Every problem...contains its own solution, Mr. Arnold.
Is there anything else, Mr. Arnold?
No.
And that's when I realized I had been wrong about the man. This was no hero. This was just a middle-aged guy in a bad suit, teaching junior high algebra.
(Cut to the hallway.)
It wasn't fair. Those jokers were getting a free ride - while the conductor was asleep at the switch.
Hey, McCormick!
It was time to put things right. I was gonna take control of the situation.
What?!
It was now or never.
(Fade to the library, as a boy passes Kevin a paper.)
And so began my life of crime.
(In class, Kevin slides the paper out. Mr. Collins is not watching the class.)
The funny thing is I thought it'd be hard, but...McCormick was right - it was easy. At first.
(Cut to home as Norma sees Kevin's quiz.)
A "B"! Kevin this is wonderful - I'm so proud of you!
Pretty soon though...
See? When you apply yourself, you get what you deserve.
Things began to get more complicated.

*

(Another day in class.)
An "A"...
Maybe I had gone too far. But I couldn't help myself. After all, it was pretty clear no one was minding the store here. If Collins didn't care, why should I?
Mr. Arnold. May I speak to you for a moment? I've just been looking at your grades.
Yessir...
You shot up...from a 72, two weeks ago, to an 85, to an 87, to a 92, and today, a 96. Now, wouldn't you say that was pretty remarkable?
Well...I guess so...
I've been thinking about what to do about it. I'd like to put you in my honors math class.
Ex-excuse me?
We'd have to juggle your schedule - but I think we could manage that. It's a very demanding class, but uh, based on your work in here - I think you're ready for it. What do you think?
Sounds like fun...(Frowns.)
Good. You can start tomorrow.
I was stuck up the proverbial creek without a slide-rule.
This is gonna be great, huh? (Smiles.)
Yeah. "Great" was the word.
In order to remove the denominators...we multiply both sides of the equation by...five "X", times "X" minus three. And the result is...
I was a stranger in a strange land.
Of course, when we solve quadratic equations by completing the square...it is necessary to make one member of the equation...a perfect square trinomial.
(Kevin frowns and taps the shoulder of the girl in front of him.)
Both sides of the equation...
Did you get what he just said?
When you solve quadratic equations by completing the square...you have to make one member of the equation...a perfect square trinomial. (Smiles.)
Thus, we get "X" minus two squared, and...
Yeah.
Gives us "X" equals "X" squared...
That's uh...that's what I though he said.
That's four "X", plus four. Alright...who can solve the equation?
Ah, Isaac Newton? Enrico Fermi?
Kevin Arnold.
Uh...uh...
(Other students raise their hands.)
Put your hands down. Mr. Arnold?
*

(Later in the restroom.)
Well I'd learned one thing in advanced math class. I'd learned I was going to fail. Maybe not tomorrow - but soon, and for the rest of my life.
(McCormick enters, hassled by his friends.)
Hey, McCormick! I got a problem.
Hey, man - I got my own problems.
Didn't you hear? We all got "F's" on the unit test! And the unit test counts for fifty percent of our grade.
It's Collins, man. He's totally out-to-lunch. He's supposed to take the tests out of the book - just like the quizzes. He doesn't know what he's doing!
May be... But suddenly I was beginning to wonder - about a lot of things.
(At home, Kevin looks at his quiz on the refrigerator.)
I began to realize that with the curve, if I'd just stayed put, then my "C" could have been a "B" - a real "B", one that I earned.
(Kevin is flipping though a comic book in his room.)
The funny thing is, McCormick and the others had paid their price, while I was left alone.
(Kevin tosses the comic on Wayne's bed.)
With nothing but my conscience...
(Kevin looks at himself in the mirror.)
Staring me in the face.
(Cut to math classroom. Kevin and Mr. Collins are alone.)
This wasn't going to be easy.
Mr. Collins?
But...how - ?
Every problem has its own solution, Mr. Arnold.
(Cut to another day in math class.)
So, it was back to long hours, hard work, and respectable "C"'s. It felt good.
You may begin.
As for why Collins had singled me out, I could only guess. But the man had said, every problem contains its own solution.
Mr. Arnold. Do you have a question?
No. No. (Smiles.)
So, I guess he'd wanted me to solve this one...
(Kevin erases his answer and rewrites it.)
On my own.

Full Transcript

Thanks to Jeff Kindig for the final scene.

(Ep 43 - "Goodbye")

(Camera zooms in slowly on an open yearbook, then closer shot as it pans across pictures of teachers.)
Teachers never die. They live in your memory forever. They were there when you arrived, they were there when you left. Like fixtures. Once in a while they taught you something. But not that often. And, you never really knew them, any more than they knew you. Still, for awhile, you believed in them. And, if you were lucky, maybe there was one who believed in you.
(Fade to Mr. Collins writing on the blackboard.)
To find the quotient plus the remainder, you divide the polynomials. We shall find that...
Mr. Collins wasn't your average teacher. He was more like...a force of nature. He was kind of a mathematical whirlwind - a tornado of chalk. He was full of surprises.
Alright...
And, he never let up.
Who can give me...the quotient?
3X+2Y?
No.
2Y squared?
No...anybody else?
Sure he was tough, but you had to respect him, and you wanted him to respect you, too. At least I did.
(Kevin and others raise hands.)
Mr. Arnold.
2X+Y?
Correct.
Heh-heh.
And the remainder?
Uh...six?
OK - so I wasn't exactly God's gift to polynomials. But I was doing my best, and Collins knew it. At least, I think he did.
(Bell rings, class starts to rise.)
For your homework...study Unit 17, Section 4. These are your last week's quizzes, please pass them back.
After all, we'd been through a lot, the old man and I. We had a history. And the fact is, thanks to him, I'd brought myself from a "D"...to a "C", a respectable "C". Nothing wrong with that.
*

Still, the next day I showed up early for class. Thought I'd have a little chat with the big guy - chew the fat. After all, we were practically on a first-name basis.
Mr. Collins?
Mr. Arnold.
I was...just...wondering, about...how you thought I was doing. I mean, generally. Overall. In math.
There! Clean and quick.
(Mr. Collins looks down toward his gradebook, and slides it toward himself.)
One simple "Good job!" and I'd be on my way.
Let's check...according to my records, you've been getting..."C"'s. Is that correct?
Well...yes.
(Mr. Collins looks back to the book, closes it, and tosses it toward the rest of his things. He puts his hands together on the desk, and looks at Kevin.)
Was there anything else?
Well...no, except...would you say I'm doing well? Or not so well?
How do you feel you're doing?
Penalty! Answering a question with a question - five yards, loss of down.
Well...I guess "C"'s are better than "D"'s...even though they're not as good as "B"'s...or "A"'s.
I see. Thank you for sharing that with me.
(Mr. Collins smiles faintly and looks down.)
Sure, anytime!
(Bell rings.)
(To class): Take your seats and open your text books to Unit 17. (To Kevin): Anything else?
No. Nothing.
Nope, nothin' at all.
*

(Mr. Collins is handing out quizzes.)
These are the results of Tuesday's quizzes.
"B"! I got a "B"!
(Bell rings.)
Your mid-term exam...will be two weeks from tomorrow. I suggest you begin studying for it now.
(Students exit. Kevin looks at his test and smiles.)
But who cared about two weeks from now? This was a red-letter day.
Mr. Collins?
Yes?
(Kevin smiles and holds his quiz up.)
Ta-da!
A "B"!
Yes. I know.
Ta-da!
(Mr. Collins exits.)
That was it? What was it gonna take here?
The next morning I showed up early for school.
Mr. Collins?
It was time for a talk, no holds barred - mano a mano.
You have?
I believe I understand.
OK, then. No hard feelings. Let 'em come - the kudos, the accolades...
And, I think I can help.
I beg you pardon?
There's not much time. We can start this afternoon.
Naturally, one or two questions sprang to mind.
Start what?
Preparing for your mid-term examination. We have two weeks and a lot of ground to cover.
But I didn't say anything about an exam!
We can work in the afternoon, after school.
Wait a minute!
Heck, all I wanted here was a little applause for a job well done, and he's giving me -
An opportunity to do your best. Isn't that why you came to me? You said...a "C" is better than a "D", but not as good as an "A".
Well, sure, but...I didn't mean that -
I think you can get that "A", Mr. Arnold. And I think you want to.
An "A"? In math?
And suddenly it was clear - the man had completely lost his mind.
Look -
Let me know what you decide.
Mr. Collins?
I'll never be an "A" student.
That's up to you, Mr. Arnold.
Well, like I said, the man was full of surprises.
*

(Mr. Collins is looking off in thought as Kevin opens the door and enters. Mr. Collins turns toward him. Kevin sighs.)
When do we start?
(Fade to wide shot of the classroom. Mr. Collins is writing on the blackboard. Kevin sits at a front-row desk.)
And so, I stepped into the whirlwind.
...the lowest common denominator...
Every day after school, Mr. Collins and I met to accomplish the improbable.
What law do we apply?
The commutative law.
Not in this case. The commutative law says...
If not the impossible.
(Cut to on the bus as Kevin is studying his "Algebra 1" textbook.)
Not that I really believed I was gonna ace that exam...
(Fade to Kevin writing on the chalkboard.)
Still for some reason...Mr. Collins seemed sure I could do it. And if he believed it, well, maybe anything was possible. But it wasn't all hard work. It was something...more. It was the man himself. I liked him. I was getting to know him, and he was getting to know me. We never talked about anything personal. We didn't have to.
That's correct, Mr. Arnold.
Talking math was enough.
*

(Kevin did not find Mr. Collins in class. Now they are in the parking lot. Mr Collins is apparently leaving.)
Mr. Collins?!
Mr. Arnold.
I thought you...we're supposed to -
I'm afraid I can't make it today. I have an appointment.
Oh. (Frowns.)
"An appointment"? Was he joking? The test was Friday, and he has an appointment?
Well, then, I guess I'll see you tomorrow.
I'm afraid I won't be here tomorrow either.
Oh.
Jeez, the guy sure looked in a hurry to get out of there. Maybe he'd maybe he robbed a cash-register or something.
We still have six more units to cover.
I'm afraid you'll have to prepare on your own, Mr. Arnold. You still have functions and...real numbers to review. Ah, that's units twelve, through, uh...
I can't do those on my own!
I suggest you try. They will be on the examination.
Look, Mr. Collins...(smiles)...this whole thing was your idea. You...(gets serious)...we kinda had a deal. Didn't we?
I'm sorry, I have to go. I'll be back for the exam on Friday.
Wait!
I felt betrayed. Here I was, practically begging for the man to help...and the man was throwing me an anvil for a life-jacket.
I -
But there was nothing more to say, except for one thing.
I thought you were my friend.
Oh...
And that was that - in spades. The big kiss-off. And I was left...with nothing. Nothing but rage.
(Fade to class. Mr. Collins is handing out quizzes.)
By the day of the test I'd made up my mind. I knew what I had to do.
You have the entire period to complete the exam. Begin.
OK, then. Time to get to work.
(Close shot of Kevin's test. He has already written "Let him get out and walk", and writes "Who cares?", "So what?", draws a "smiley face", 4 question marks, and "Factor this!" to the questions. Bell rings. Students start to get up.)
(All the students have left as Kevin approaches Mr. Collins and hands him the test.)
Mr. Arnold.
(Mr. Collins looks down at Kevin's paper then at Kevin with disappointment. Kevin looks at Mr. Collins, then walks off.)
Kevin...
But I wasn't buyin'. He'd said it was up to me. So I made my choice. An "F". A perfectly respectable "F".
Course I was pretty proud of myself, all afternoon, and well into prime-time that night. After that, well...

(Fade to Kevin walking the hallway).
I guess you could say it was one of the longer weekends in my life.
(Kevin stops at the faculty lounge door.)
I'd watched enough "Victory at Sea" re-runs to sink a ship.
(Kevin knocks on the door. A woman opens the door.)
I need to speak to Mr. Collins. Please.
Just a moment. (Exits).
OK. So I felt bad. For me, for Collins. After all, he probably had a good reason for -
(Mr. Diperna appears in the doorway.)
I'm, uh, looking for Mr. Collins.
I'm afraid he's not here.
Well, could I leave him a message?
Sure. Set up a pow-wow, formal peace talks...anything.
Um...Mr. Collins passed away this morning. He, uh...he was at home. We just got the bad news. He's been not well for awhile. It was his heart. I'm sorry to have to break the news to you, now. I'll be making a formal announcement later in the day. Meanwhile, I'll be taking over most of his classes.
*

(In the cafeteria as Kevin, Hobson and Paul are getting loud.)
Gentlemen?! What's going on here?
Nothing. It's nothing.
(Mr. Diperna looks at Kevin.)
See me in my classroom. Three o'clock. Sharp.
Forty lashes, Arnold. Nice goin'.
(Cut to the classroom. Kevin pauses in the doorway as the bell rings.)
Arnold. Come in.
Yes, sir.
It was about the last place on earth I wanted to be at that moment.
Something odd has occurred. Perhaps you can shed some light on it.
And somehow I knew, as soon as I saw that envelope.
Mid-term examinations. All of them. All of them, that is...except yours.
What?
Apparently, Mr. Collins graded these tests the weekend that, uh...well, in any event, it seems yours was misplaced.
Oh...
The question now is what do we do about it. You need a grade. Do you have any suggestions?
No, sir.
Well...Collins did.
(Mr. Diperna holds up a blank test, with Kevin's name on it.)
Fifty minutes, Arnold. You may begin.
As I took that test, I thought about...a lot of things. About how I knew him, and yet, I didn't. About how he treated me like a man, and how I'd acted like a child. About how I let him down, and now I wouldn't. The thing is, even though I could almost feel him in the room, I knew I didn't need him for the answers - or the praise. I was on my own, now.
(Fade to later. Kevin hands his test to Mr. Diperna.)
You don't have to grade it. It's an "A".
(Kevin collects his things and walks toward the door.)
Mr. Arnold.
(Kevin pauses and looks over his shoulder.)
Good job, Mr. Collins.