Presque Isle 8th-grader aces math exam, best in The County

Posted Jan. 14, 2011, at 8:08 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 02, 2011, at 12:22 p.m.
F. Ryan Kelly. 8 grader at Presque Isle Middie School. w/ACMATHWIZ
F. Ryan Kelly. 8 grader at Presque Isle Middie School. w/ACMATHWIZ

PRESQUE ISLE — F. Ryan Kelly, an eighth-grader at Presque Isle Middle School, has always been good at math. In fact, he’s so good at it that he recently earned the highest score of all Aroostook County students who took the Mathematical Association of America’s American Mathematics Competitions 8 exam.

“In pre-K, I was multiplying and dividing fractions,” said Kelly, 14. “I’m taking algebra now, and it’s going really well.

“Numbers just come naturally [to me],” he said. “I don’t need to think about it. It’s just if I see two numbers, I know what they add up to.”

PIMS eighth-grade algebra students took the AMC 8 test at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The test covers topics such as probability, estimation, percentages, spatial visualization, everyday applications, and reading and interpreting graphs.

“It wasn’t really anything we could study for,” said Kelly. “I went to bed at 8 p.m. the night before and got a really good night’s sleep, woke up and ate a decent breakfast, and in the classroom, I stayed focused.”

The AMC 8 was a 25-question, 40-minute multiple choice examination in middle school mathematics. The competition is for sixth through eighth grades, although accelerated fourth- and fifth-graders can take part.

More than 150,000 students competed in the contest held simultaneously at middle schools and colleges nationwide on Nov. 16. Competition entries were sent to the math association’s headquarters in Lincoln, Neb., to be evaluated.

While Kelly earned the highest score in Aroostook County, second place was shared by Ashley Hersey from Easton Junior High School and Austin Griffeth from Caribou Middle School, and third place went to Angela Wang from PIMS. These students, together with the best in other Maine regions, will be part of a celebration the first week of February.

According to the Mathematical Association of America’s website, a certificate of distinction is given to all students who receive a perfect score, an AMC 8 winner pin is given to the student with the highest score in each school, and the top three students for each school section receive gold, silver and bronze certificates. An AMC 8 honor roll certificate is given to all high-scoring students, and an AMC 8 merit certificate is given to high-scoring students in sixth grade or below.

Eva J. Szillery, state director of the American Mathematics competitions, said the number of participants in Aroostook County doubled this year compared to previous years.

“Activities like the AMC contest allow and encourage students to excel in an academic sphere,” she said. “The contest is a rewarding experience where mathematical curiosity and skill are stimulated. The American Mathematics Competitions are designed to inspire an interest in mathematics that will lead to academic success, scholarship and a rewarding career.

Competence in mathematics and mathematical understanding lead to success and an enriched life.”

Kelly said he was pleased to do so well on the exam.

“I was expecting to place in the top three at my school,” he said, “but I never thought I’d get top in the school and the county. That’s pretty neat.”

A participant in the school’s math league, Kelly recently applied to the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone.

“I was really kind of feeling iffy about everything, but this [doing so well on the exam] has really given me motivation,” he said. “It shows that I can do it. I just have to try.”

The motivated math whiz has his long-term educational plans laid out.

“I’d like to go to MSSM for high school, then go to a good undergrad school … maybe a football school because I love football and I think it would be a good atmosphere,” said Kelly. “After that I’d like to go on to graduate school at Harvard Med to become an invasive cardiologist.”

Kelly is the son of Mary Kay Moreau and Charles Terrence Kelly.

The Mathematical Association of America will offer the same type of competition for high school students next month. Aroostook County high school students are invited to register and take AMC 10 or AMC 12 at noon Tuesday, Feb. 8, at UMPI. The first 25 students to register for the competition are invited to lunch on campus.

For information or to register, contact Szillery by e-mailing evaszillery-mmsets@me.acadia.net or calling 356-0207.

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