When I was teaching at a junior high, I once had a kid ask, “What does e=mc2 mean?” Clearly, whatever point of sentence construction I was elaborating on wasn’t sinking in with this kid.

“Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared,” I said as I underlined a predicate.

He squinted his eyes a bit, probably wondering whether or not he could trust an English teacher on this, but then nodded and jotted something down in his notebook. He looked up again. “Okay, what’s the speed of light?”

I stopped and looked at him. “186,000 miles per second.”

He nodded and scribbled the equation in his spiral, his number two pencil working madly. “Whoooaa,” he said, looking up.


“That’s a lot of energy. Even if the mass is just 1.”

I nodded. “Yes, it is.”

He stared at his notebook, trying to make sense of the enormity of those numbers. “I mean, you could probably blow up a whole city with that kind of energy, right?”

I think the next few sentences we analyzed were about nuclear bombs.