When I was in 9th grade my teacher told this story...
About 200 years ago Carl Friedrich Gauss had a teacher that liked to give busy work to keep the students occupied. One day the assignment was add all the numbers from 1 to 100. Gauss, who was 10 years old, shot back the answer, 5050. The teacher was amazed and asked how he knew so quickly. He told her. He found a pattern, 1 + 100 = 101, 2 + 99 = 101, 3 + 98 = 101, and it continues up to 50 + 51 = 101. There are 50 sets of 101, so answer is 50 times 101, 5,050.
A quick google search revealed to me that he probably read the book Making Pre-Algebra come Alive
I got to thinking about that story and about how great teacher shape our lives after watching this TED video by Clifford Stoll. He is a physicist, I have read his book, The Cuckoos Egg about computer hacking in the 80s, and now he teaches 8th grade physics. He has taught 8th graders how to measure the speed of light and he demonstrates quickly how to measure the speed of sound. Plus he is a dead ringer for the Doc on Back to the Future.