Everyone needs help getting into Stuyvesant: What it really takes

Now that I mention it, I don’t think I was all that good at the test questions at the beginning. But my mother, a math teacher, had a blue shoulder bag of “manipulables”: toys, essentially, that she used to explain concepts in geometry and probability. The blue bag was always in the foyer, as if she might need it at the last minute while escaping a fire or running late for work.

My father, who taught English, discussed the books I was reading, even (despite his love of realism) the Star Wars spin-offs. When I got stuck on a test-prep problem, they were happy to help and had time to do so.