When Fernley, Nev., middle school student Sky Yi was assigned to write a letter to a favorite business, to learn how math is being used in the real world, he chose Microsoft.
“Of course, I picked Microsoft, since you guys manufacture every spoiled, squeaky little teener child’s favorite thing, the Xbox,” Yi wrote in his letter to Brad Smith, the company’s president and chief legal officer. “Also, you guys have awesome computer software and hardware. In fact, I’m typing this on Microsoft Word.”
He added, “I bet whoever is getting this letter, whether it be your secretary or whatnot, is probably just throwing this away or something like that.”
Turns out he was wrong. Not only did Smith read the letter, but the Microsoft executive was moved enough by the assignment to travel to Yi’s school to surprise him in person. The visit is showcased in a new video from the technology giant, above.
The video features scenes of Smith and Yi reading the letter, and comments from Ken Jordan, the math teacher behind the assignment, before showing Smith surprising Yi in a classroom.
While the video highlights Microsoft’s latest hardware and software, it also shows the company’s focus on education technology. Microsoft is competing with Apple, Google, Amazon and many other tech companies to cater to students and teachers, aiming to turn them into fans and long-term users.
“What we’ve learned, what the country knows, is that middle school math is a game-changer,” Smith explains in the video. “If kids make it through 7th and 8th grade math, and they succeed, they’re almost certain to keep succeeding, they’re almost certain to graduate from high school.”
He adds, “One of the things that makes this story exciting is that this is a middle school that clearly has some great math teachers, doing really creative work, drawing kids in, helping them not just learn to count or focus on things like algebra, but showing how math has a real-world impact.”
On the video, Smith presents Yi with a new Surface Laptop, the company’s new notebook computer that comes with Windows 10 S, a version of the operating system that has been streamlined with schools in mind.
“Not bad for a little letter,” the Microsoft exec says.