5th-grader hits perfection in math olympics

NEIGHBORS

May 16, 2000|By Pamela Woolford | Pamela Woolford,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MANY STUDENTS struggle with mathematics. Others grin and bear it. But 11-year-old Nicolas Van Aarten revels in it.

A fifth-grader at Talbott Springs Elementary School, Nicolas received a perfect score in this year's Mathematical Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools.

"It's my favorite subject," Nicolas says. "What I love about it is there's always this one precise answer."

An annual international contest, the Olympiads had more than 100,000 participants this year. Seventy-one received perfect scores.

Once a month for five months, participants are given five complex mathematical problems to solve in less than a half-hour.

Nicolas participated along with other members of the fourth- and fifth-grade gifted-and-talented (G/T) math classes at Talbott Springs under the supervision of G/T resource teacher Carrye Jones.

Test questions, supplied to teachers in a sealed envelope, range from those involving fractions within a fraction to word problems related to time and distance.

The pupils didn't know what kind of questions they would be given, Nicolas says. "That's the hard part."

After he received perfect scores on the first two of the series of five tests, Nicolas was determined not to break his streak.

"I set the goal, and I was happy to know I was able to make it," says Nicolas, who was honored at a dinner at Hunan Manor on Wednesday with other participants from his school.

Nicolas also received a perfect score on the advanced level School and College Ability Test (SCAT) used for middle school G/T math placement in Howard County.

Nicholas was a participant in last year's Mathematical Olympiads, where he earned a score of 13 out of 25. He credits Jones for helping him improve.

"In the past year, I've just learned so much," he says. "Last year, I was lacking in some of these skills. Mrs. Jones is a great G/T teacher."

Disney dreamers

Four east Columbia students returned from a trip to Florida and Disney World last week as recipients of the Millennium Dreamer's award sponsored by Walt Disney Co. and McDonald's Corp. They were among 2,000 winners internationally, chosen from entrants who wrote essays about how they are using their lives to help others.

Ryan Losowsky, a ninth-grader at Hammond High, was honored for digging out 40 fire hydrants during the Blizzard of 1996 and organizing a volunteer group to assist in future emergencies.

Fifth-grader Kirstin Shipp won the award for organizing a book drive to send 9,000 books to Oklahoma after a tornado destroyed a town's only school and library.

David Dalrymple, an 8-year-old from Oakland Mills who is home-schooled, received his award for his volunteer work at Vantage House Retirement Community in Columbia's Town Center.

David visits Vantage House weekly to read to residents, chat with them and share projects such as an electronic Lego robot he built.

He also reads to younger children at the east Columbia branch of the Howard County Library. A participant in a program originally designed for schoolchildren age 10 and older to read to younger children, David wrote the library a letter last year requesting an audition to be a reader.

"I have a dream here!" David, then 7, wrote. "I would love to read to children."

An avid reader, David has raised more than $4,000 for multiple sclerosis in read-a-thons. He has been the organization's top fund-raiser in Maryland for the past three years and was 5 years old when he first achieved the distinction.

Leon Little III, a fourth-grader at Jeffers Hill Elementary School, won the four-day Florida trip for his work as the founder of the local nonprofit advocacy group Young Kids Against Violence.

He was one of seven winners who took part in a panel discussion.

Meeting students from around the world was a memorable experixence, Leon says. "I met somebody from China who was getting blankets and more stuff to donate for the poor," he said. "I met this one boy from South America who was recording sound from the rain forest, so if anybody every chops the rain forest down, they can still have the sounds and videos.

"I felt honored," Leon said, "because I didn't know so many people around the world were trying to make a difference just like me."

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