You’ll be hearing more about these whiz kids — count on it

by Melissa Hirschl

How many hundreds are there in one trillion? What’s the difference between the mode, the mean and the median? 
Whatever you do, pleeeease don’t ask me. 

I’ll tell you whose brains you can pick, however: Kyrene Corridor seventh-grader Rebecca Woodbury and eighth-grader Eric Van Egmond. 

The two home-schooled “mathletes” won first and third place respectively in Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s annual math competition.

Intended exclusively for middle schoolers, the 90-minute test contained 40 questions. Its intent is to support the efforts of community schools in motivating and encouraging students to be successful in math. 

In this challenging competition, students can compete alongside their classmates as well as meet and compete against students from Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Higley, Scottsdale, Apache Junction and Queen Creek.

Rebecca had the distinction of winning first place in the seventh-grade division of the competition; Eric placed third among eighth graders.

In a recent interview, they discussed their scholastic backgrounds and their thoughts on winning these awards. WN: How many other students did you compete against?

Rebecca: Approximately 75 other seventh graders from area schools.

WN: Have you won any other awards?

Eric: Last year I received second place in this competition when I was in the 7th grade.

WN: How did you feel when you found out you won the awards?

Rebecca: My mom was at the awards and I was at a basketball game at the time. So she surprised me at the game—I was very excited.

Eric: I was pretty happy; the score was kind of where I thought it would be since after the test I was able to check my answers.

WN: What types of questions did the test contain?

Rebecca: It was mostly word problems with multiple-choice answers, so it involved a lot of problem solving. Questions centered on pre-algebra and some geometry, although some problems were a combination. There were also some basic questions.

Eric: They were definitely not your usual type of math problems; they really made us think. For a lot of questions we had to first figure out to how to solve the problem before we even used math skills. We also had to know the distinctions for mathematical definitions (such as mean, median, and mode) since they were used interchangeably.

WN: How long have you been studying for this test?

Rebecca: We’ve been meeting since September—every week for an hour and a half. We’ve done 20-30 math problems a week, which as above and beyond normal math requirement.

WN: Who tutored you?

Eric: We’ve been getting tutored from Rebecca’s mom for another test called Math Counts, and we were able to use the skills she taught us for this test. This is our fifth year in that program.