Ten-year-old Moises has just moved to California from Mexico. He’s looking forward to the math test today because he’s very good at math. His family is excited for him at the breakfast table. He walks to school before dawn, with his brother Luis. Luis goes inside the school, while Moises sits outside the school gate to study and wait for school to open.
In class, Moises is confused about whether the test is starting – he doesn’t speak any English. Then he finds out the math test is mostly word problems, in English. Working at great speed, he uses posters on the walls, his bilingual friend Alicia, and his dictionary to help him understand one word problem, and he gets the right answer. But Enrique poaches the answer from him and he ends up being embarrassed in front of the class.
At recess Moises appeals to his teacher, Ms. Peterson, for a Spanish version of the test, but she doesn’t know what to do and tells him not to worry about the test.
Ms. Peterson tries to persuade the principal to translate the test, but he reminds her they are not even supposed to talk to the kids in Spanish. Moises plays kickball at recess. He gets out when he doesn’t understand the rules for today. Enrique teases Moises’ brother Luis, and Moises nearly gets into a fight with Enrique. Moises meets Gerardo, who is planning to skip the test and go to the park. Moises says he will join Gerardo.
Ms. Peterson looks in a storage room for a test in Spanish, but can’t find one. As Moises waits in the bathroom for Gerardo, he remembers jumping over a fence at night with his mother on his way to California. The wind is howling, and his mother gets stuck on the fence, but Moises is having the time of his life.
Gerardo says the coast is clear, but Moises says he has to take the test. He doesn’t know why, since as Gerardo says, he’s just going to fail.
Moises answers the first page of the math test, which is all arithmetic. But the rest of the test is all word problems. Moises’ usual aids are not available to him. The posters on the walls are covered up with paper, Alicia’s desk has been moved far away from him, and Ms. Peterson reluctantly has to confiscate his dictionary. She tells Moises he can ask her any questions, but they both know it won’t help him on this test. Moises sees his brother Luis washing the class windows – he’s a janitor at the school. Luis gives him a big thumbs up, still expecting him to do well on the test. Moises gives him a half smile, and goes back to starting blankly at the test.