Some people view math as a subject best left to professionals. Grace Gould, a third grader at Paradise Valley Christian Preparatory, is not one of those people.
“I love math. It’s my favorite subject,” Grace said.
Although Grace is only in elementary school, she has years of mathematical computations under her belt. Her favorite pastimes include doing complex puzzles such as Rubik’s cubes and slide puzzles.
Recognizing her propensity for the subject, Grace’s mother Marissa, a teacher, started giving her multiplication lessons in the summer leading up to second grade.
“I realized it was really fun,” Grace said.
Just recently, she had the chance to put her math skills to the test.
Grace’s school is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). Each year, the ACSI’s Rocky Mountain region, which includes schools in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, puts on a Math Olympics event to celebrate their most mathematically-proficient students.
To compete for a gold medal, Grace first had to advance through a months-long qualification process consisting of four qualifying exams at her school. After each test, the field was reduced until the final exam, which was held at Grace Christian Academy in Tempe.
Grace was among nine third graders from the region selected to compete for the gold in the Arithmetic Computation category at the Math Olympics.
When the time came, she was led into a room with her fellow competitors and provided a desk to complete the test. There were four rounds of questions, each lasting 11 minutes and consisting of 12 problems.
Grace recalled one of the questions as: (750*2) (500*8).
There were no calculators allowed. After the test was complete, Grace waited anxiously for over an hour with her mother and brother while the judges tabulated the results.
“I didn’t even think I got in the top five. I was so nervous,” Grace said.
Eventually the suspense was broken, and Grace was announced as the winner of her category.
“I was so excited I could barely control myself from running up to the stage. I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’” Grace said.
Grace believes her understanding of math concepts will help her future goal of becoming an athlete.
“I want to be a professional soccer player,” Grace said. “Practicing math kind of helps me know strategy by looking at the field and knowing where to go.”
The Gould family, which includes Grace’s two siblings (her brother Patrick also competed in the Math Olympics), defies the popular idea that math is a drag.
“My experience has been that if kids think math is boring, then it will be boring and they will shut down,” Marissa said. “If you can convince them that it’s a game, a mystery, a puzzle, then their attitude changes. Thankfully, all three of our kids have embraced the ‘math is fun’ idea.”