An excerpt from The Spark, a memoir about a mother who nurtures her autistic son’s genius:
“The ‘math people’ in our lives found Jake fascinating. One day I was having a cup of coffee with my aunt, a high school geometry teacher, while Jake sat at our feet, playing with a cereal box and a bunch of Styrofoam balls I’d gotten from a craft store so that the daycare kids could make snowmen. He was putting the balls into the box, taking them out, and then doing it again, and it sounded as if he was counting. My aunt wondered aloud what he was doing.
“Jake didn’t look up. ‘Nineteen spheres make a parallelepiped,’ he said.
“I had no idea what a parallelepiped was; it sounded like a made-up word to me. In fact, it’s a three-dimensional figure made up of six parallelograms. Jake had learned the word from a visual dictionary we had in the house. And yes, you can make one out of a cereal box. My aunt was shocked, less by the fancy word than by the sophisticated mathematical concept behind it.”