While I was back in the UK last year, I went through all my old schoolwork from the boxes in my parents’ attic.

There were answers in 3D boxes with drop shadows. On one page, a chunk of math proof stood sadly on a clifftop looking at the answers on the beach below.

Then there were the months following my purchase of New Order’s FAC 73 “Blue Monday” single, when chemistry and math homework had messages encoded in colored triangles along the edges:

There was a math homework problem consisting of half a page of algebra, randomly followed by a picture of a stylized Eye of Horus. Another math problem was introduced with the phrase “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…”

There was the summer where I redesigned my handwriting from scratch, and suddenly everything the next term was in a completely different style.

On one occasion I went through half a page of algebra, arrived at the solution, and wrote “I should have spotted that one.” On another occasion I skipped a question, writing “Too obvious. I’ll try again later.” (I didn’t.)

One time I was dinged a point for not stating precision, so my next piece of homework indicated my class as “6.2 (precisely)”. The next week it was “6.2 (+/- 10%)”, then “6.2 as t → 0”, then “e^1.824549292”, and so on.

I think it was chemistry that resulted in my handing in a piece titled “A Weak Essay On Strong Materials”.

Most mysteriously, I found a sequence of pages where I had apparently come up with my own notation for dates. I no longer have any idea how to decode them. (No, there’s no prize.)

In retrospect, I wonder what my teachers thought of it all.

More interesting to read than the typical student’s I should think. But then, JRRT began “The Hobbit” on an exam paper that was handed in entirely blank, which he described as a delightful event because it gave him the opportunity to fill something in (and spared him the trouble of grading it, I suppose). So it’s hard to say what teachers would actually prefer.