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This Policeman Tried To Help A Fifth-Grader With Her Math Homework And It Got Tough

Moral of the story: "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" is still relevant.

Posted on February 21, 2017, at 5:25 p.m. ET

Remember fifth-grade math? Yeah... Neither did police Lt. B.J. Gruber, but he still responded to the call of duty when a 10-year-old girl asked for help on Facebook.

Marion Ohio Police Department

Lena Draper had been struggling with the order of operations (PEMDAS), so she reached out to the people she thought could solve the problem — the police department of Marion, Ohio.

Molly Draper

At first, she received a standard automated response, but then Gruber replied, “What’s up?”

Lena shared the problem she’d been struggling with: “Well I don’t understand (8+29)x15.”

A tough one, but Gruber nailed it👏

The lieutenant has four kids of his own, ranging in age from a third-grader to a college-student, and is no stranger to homework queries. Math, however, is not his forte.

"My wife usually does the math homework and I take the other stuff because I don't remember how to do it," he told BuzzFeed News.

Molly Draper, Lena's mom, couldn't believe her daughter had messaged the police about a math question. “We never truly thought they’d respond," she said. Thankful and surprised, Draper shared the exchange on Facebook, and it's since gone viral.

Facebook: molly.draper

Lena enjoys math, but “new concepts are always overwhelming," Draper said. Stumped by this lesson, the fifth-grader got resourceful.

And seeing that Gruber was committed to the cause, Lena asked him another (harder) question.

Here’s where Gruber wishes he remembered the helpful mnemonic device “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction). He told Lena to add first before multiplying. But still, valiant effort.

“Maybe should have mentioned that history was my favorite subject before answering,” he joked.

The two math wizards continued to exchange messages after the semi-successful tutoring session and recently met in person when Gruber stopped by Lena's school for lunch.

He says the experience exemplifies his department's commitment to community policing and staying active on social media.

"We really try to increase trust and show kids we are approachable," he said. "This time it was homework, but hopefully next time if a kid is in trouble they will also reach out."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.