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Take Note: Counting their chickens; Java in Juneau?

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A national restaurant chain that boasts about its tasty chicken is eating crow after a high school mathematics class cried foul over a television ad.

The ad shows Joe Montana, the National Football League quarterback, standing at the counter at a Boston Chicken restaurant puzzling over side-dish choices when an announcer says that more than 3,000 combinations can be created by choosing three of the restaurant's 16 side dishes.

But Bob Swaim, a math teacher at Souderton Area High School near Philadelphia, and his class did the math and told the Colorado-based chicken chain that there were only 816 combinations.

"We goofed," said Gary Gerdemann, a spokesman for Boston Chicken, explaining that the restaurant had confused "combinations" with "permutations."

"Apparently we didn't listen to our high school math teachers," Mr. Gerdemann said.

The company has, however, listened to Mr. Swaim and corrected its ads. For their eagle eyes, the students were awarded free meals and $500 to expand the math menu at Souderton.

Kristin Dahl, the president of the student council at Juneau-Douglas High School in Alaska, never realized the controversy that a cup of coffee could stir up.

A few years ago the student council looked into buying a coffee machine with the idea of skimming some of the profits for the council's coffers. But a hefty price tag brought the idea to a grinding halt.

This year, a local coffee vendor proposed setting up a full-scale espresso bar to serve frothy cappuccinos or mochas. But the bidder wasn't willing to funnel enough profits back to the school, and some parents complained that students should not be encouraged to ingest caffeine.

"Many students are already in altered states," said Susan G. Benton, an assistant principal. "This would be just one other thing for teachers to deal with."

Now, the school is looking into "evening espresso"--offering coffee drinks at events held on the 1,467-student campus after school hours.

Regardless, Ms. Dahl wonders what all the fuss is about, noting that the school already has soft-drink machines.

"It's not like you can't avoid a mocha the same way you can a Mountain Dew or a Coke," the senior said.

--Lonnie Harp & Lynn Schnaiberg

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