Virginia Fifth Grader Spots Textbook Error
Liam Squires, like many students, usually answers the question “How was school today?” with an evasive “I don’t know” response.
That’s why weeks passed before his mother, Megan Squires, learned that he had spotted a mistake in a science textbook that the publisher, dozens of students and his own teacher had missed.
Liam, 10, noticed that two rocks were misplaced in a rock cycle diagram. The significance of his discovery wasn’t clear to his mother until months later in March, when Liam was congratulated by the school district superintendent and received a letter from the textbook publisher.
Liam saw the error near the end of a school day at HM Pearson Elementary School in Catlett, Virginia, about 50 miles southwest of Washington, DC
“I had just walked through it, and since we had only recently discovered the rock cycle, I remember it quite well,” Liam said. “And I was like, ‘That’s not true,’ when I saw the mistake.”
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For those who need a refresher on the rock cycle, it’s the process that explains how the three main types of rock – igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary – are formed and transformed, according to the University of California, Berkeley.
In the review section of the “Exploring Science All Around Us” textbook that Liam’s class used, sedimentary rock and igneous rock were swapped in the wrong places in the rock cycle. Fauquier’s era reported on Liam’s discovery.
He immediately told his teacher, Serena Porter, who at first thought there couldn’t be a mistake in the textbook and feared she had taught the rock cycle wrong.
Then she looked more closely at the diagram.
“My eyes have been on this page, and other adult eyes, and no one has seen it,” Ms Porter said. “I was just blown away that he found it.”
Ms. Porter said the books were new and her class received them in the middle of the school year.
Liam noticed the mistake before winter break, shortly after his class received the new books. Ms. Porter informed Fauquier County Public Schools System Science Manager Linda Correll, who contacted the textbook’s publisher, Five Ponds Press.
Months passed, but in early March, Ms Porter learned that Five Ponds Press had written a letter to Liam acknowledging the error and sent him stickers and buttons. In the letter, the editor said he was “proud” of Liam.
“Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be a geologist studying the Earth, or maybe you’ll be an author writing your own book!” said the letter. “Anyway, your future is bright. Great job giving such attention in class.
The publisher did not respond to a request for comment from The New York Times.
Now that Liam has been praised for the discovery, Ms Porter said her pupils had searched all their textbooks for errors. So far, they’ve found a few missing periods, but nothing like the rock cycle error.
Ms Porter called Liam a great student with an analytical mind. “It doesn’t really surprise me of all my students in all of fifth grade that he was the one who would have found the error,” she said.
And as a teacher, she said, there was a clear lesson in her 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 turn around to point out everyone’s little mistakes, but you should be proud to have caught something like this.”