Did Ed Trice sue to get his daughter's grade changed?

You may have seen this by Ed Trice https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-largest-number-you-can-represent-3-digits-nope-its-ed-trice
(I saw it because a friend of mine is a friend of a differnt Ed Trice)
Many people are doubting the story, but can it be proven it didn’t happen (or at least make it a < 1 billion chnace it did)
Flaws include (but are not limited to)

  1. First of all, there are the math arguments (that you could do 9!^9!^9! or F^F^F) but that isn’t my focus
  2. Standardized tests don’t affect your grade
  3. You don’t see answers to individual questions
  4. Three months seems an awfully short time for this to be resolved
  5. Lowering every other student’s grade – there is no way this would be done, and even it was thier parents would complain
  6. No one can find any record of this (but I don’t know if anyone with LexisNexis et al has checked)

Anyone have any additional info?


No info, but to me, the story reads like a fable, not a factual account of what happened.

I call bullshit
There is no national board of education. There is a Department of Education but they would not be dealing with this issue. The author would have to deal with the state board of education and the testing organization. Both of who would answer "Go ahead and sue us. Your daughter has not demonstrated any damage so the judge will throw it out. Your attorney and the moose out front should have told you.

Also, Trice’s daughter is wrong and I know if I were in charge I would have said she did not use Knuth’s up-arrow notation. The correct answer is 9^[sup]9[/sup]9. So she is wrong sir - wrong! She stole fizzy-lifting drink and she bumped into the ceiling, which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get… NOTHING!!! You lose! GOOD DAY, SIR!

I spent a little bit of digging into this when it showed up all over my Facebook feed, and it appears that Ed Trice (the author of the linkedin piece, not your friend) is something of a serial liar/scam artist.

He claimed to have worked with Bobby Fischer on a book, “My 61 Memorable Games”, but Fischer was never involved.

He claimed to be able to build machines that can mine fantastical numbers of bitcoins, and took orders (and money) for them, but then never delivered.*

He tried to sell land on Mars. When called on it, he claimed it was an ‘experiment’.

Lots more of more obscure things that I didn’t bother digging into after uncovering the Mars thing.

  • Normally I wouldn’t be as lazy to link to a Google search, but this guy isn’t worth the effort.

First of all, I thought (and the OP mentioned this) that the answer could be 9!^9!^9!, so they could argue the girl was wrong anyway.

Second, I don’t believe any standardized test would ask such a stupid question in the first place, even worded unambiguously.

Third - what the hell does this have to do with Common Core? His issue was with this one standardized test out of the many given throughout the country. Common Core has nothing to do with it; the story could have been set in 1980 without any facts changing.

In my opinion, the school was right.
The largest number you can represent with 3 digits (and only 3 digits) is 999.

The question was not worded in such a way as to allow the inclusion of operands such as (^ or ! or *).

I don’t want to defend “Ed Trice” because I don’t believe a single word he wrote. But I can write 9 to the ninth to the ninth power without any operands, using only digits of varying sizes and elevations:


You’re still using operands there; they’re just implicit.\

Which doesn’t change the fact that the only part of the story that’s at all plausible is that he has a daughter.

Right – except that while not endorsing the truth of the article, I expect the daughter used super scripting: [sub]9[/sub]9[sup]9[/sup]. It’s the position of the three digits that creates the exponent operation as opposed to an operandi like ^.

Ninja’d by TroutMan!

Well, then 999 is also using implicit positional notation in a base-10 number system.

On the general point; does anyone have first hand experiences of getting into trouble for correcting a teacher?

I spent a good deal of my childhood in West Africa, but we had to come home to the UK on leave sometimes, and I had to go to school. When I was around seven or eight, I was in a geography class and the teacher said something about peanut bushes. Up shot my hand. “Please Miss - peanuts don’t grow on bushes, they grow on the ground.”

She told me that I was wrong, and I stood my ground; which ended up with me being sent to the head for being cheeky and disruptive. In those days teacher was always right - even when she wasn’t.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what the test was attempting to accomplish. If they really intended to exclude mathematical operations, then why not simply ask “What’s the largest 3-digit number?”. Or maybe they meant to ask “Which is bigger, 9+9+9, 9x9x9, or 999?”. It’s difficult to imagine such an open-ended question being asked on a standardized test. I call shenanigans.

<nitpick>The story itself says in boldface “9^9^9 = 9^387,420,489”, i.e. 9^(9^9). But that isn’t what the little girl said. She said “9 raised to the 9th power raised to the 9th power”, i.e. (9^9)^9, which is only 387,420,489^9. To get the larger of the two, you need to say “9 raised to the power of 9 to the 9th power”.</nitpick>

I agree. It vaguely reminds me of the Orson Scott Card novel Lost Boys, where a father has to defend his child against a teacher who is a bully.

If church counts…

I was about 4 years old in a Sunday School religious class at church when the teacher passed around pictures. She then asked each of us to say a short prayer.

Thank you God for the rain.
Thank you God for my parents.
Thank you God for the flowers.

And so it went until she got to me. “Iggy, say Thank you God for the sunrise.” she encouraged. But I said NO. After a few more tries the teacher took me in hand up to the sanctuary and pulled my mother, the church pianist, out of service.

My mother asked why I wouldn’t say the little prayer. And my reply has become the stuff of family lore…

“Well,” I said. “In the first place, the sun doesn’t set. The earth rotates on its axis…”

My mother had to stifle a laugh. And then she worked out the agreement with the teacher… I would say a little prayer. And so I muttered out, “Thank you God for the Earth rotating on its axis.”

Aren’t standardized math tests all multiple-choice? Are we to believe the choices included “C:999, D: none of the above” and she chose D?

No - standardized tests still have lots of multiple choice items, but now also include gridded response (the student can fill in bubbles, typically 5 or 6, to enter any numerical answer they want), short answer (typically a word, number, equation, etc.; these can usually be scored by computer using optical character recognition), and extended or constructed response, which are scored by hand and can involve written student explanations, showing work, etc.

More recently, as tests have moved from paper to computer, are technology-enhanced items in which the student manipulates objects on a screen. These can be drag-and-drop or matching type items (“Drag the five fractions into the five boxes so the fractions are in ascending order.”), graphing (both on a number line and a Cartesian plane), plotting points, drawing angles using a protractor presented on-screen, and various other tasks.

(Of course, every standardized test is different - there probably are some that are still exclusively multiple choice, I suppose.)

That being said, this fable seems to have occurred several years ago, since his daughter (reading from the comments) was working on integral calculus at age 14. It’s tough to say what a standardized test would have looked like then, especially since it is a fantasy land.

It’s like a “Dear Penthouse forum” letter, except it’s a fantasy for…I’m not sure who. Math geeks? Tiger dads? Litigation junkies?

As soon as you hit the words “Common Core,” you know it’s a fable.

That is only 1 digit and two exponents


I do like the part of the story where the dad is more worried about his daughter crying than anything else.

“I have read many stories on the internet, but I was sure nothing like that would ever happen to me! So, let me tell you, when I had a run-in with my daughter’s teacher, the principal, and three pointy headed dudes from the “National Board of Education”, no one was more surprised than me! …”

BTW, I had to “give it” to my daughter’s teacher AGAIN when she tried to correct ME, saying I should have said, “… no one was more surprised than I”! But that’s another story. :wink: