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Young math whizzes calculate quickly, accurately  (5/20/2006)
While many children spent a recent morning hypnotized by TV cartoon shows, a group of 156 students ages 5-12 were answering math problems as fast as their minds could calculate.

The students, from 53 schools across the Valley, competed in the second annual Speedy Math Competition conducted by U.S. Mental Math Federation, a Tempe-based non-profit.

With three- and 10-minute time limits, the students were pressed to answer as many as 60 questions in tests on the four basic math operations. Four students nabbed first place as the fastest and most accurate of the young mathematicians. advertisement

Austin Wong, a 5-year-old kindergarten student from San Tan Elementary, swept first place in all four operations in the 5-6 age group. He correctly answered 44 problems on the addition/subtraction test, 57 problems in multiplication and 46 in division.

"I like plus and minus best," he said. His mom, Diane, said Austin began learning math on an abacus a year ago as his first introduction to computations.

In the 10-12 age group, Timothy Horng also captured first place in all operations. He is home-schooled by his mother, Rueyin Chiou, the owner of IQ Abacus and Language School and a founder of the math federation.

"I was a little nervous and my hands were shaky," Timothy said of the Saturday competition at a Chandler school. "I had a brain freeze on one question but I skipped it and then went back to it. Now I feel great."

Other first-place finishes went to Bronson Wu from Tri-City Christian Academy and Eric Lin from Kyrene del Cielo Elementary.

"I can see and feel the excitement here," said Fawzia Mai Tung, principal of Arizona Cultural Academy and a guest speaker at the event. "The ability to compute is but a tool in solving real math problems. Unfortunately, in this country we've forgotten to master this tool. These students are taking an important step in mastering the tool."

Tim Chen, a fourth-grader at Aztec Elementary in Scottsdale, was proud of his first math award. So was his mother, Evelyn Yin.

"He and an 11-year-old friend were doing math work recently and Tim was done in a second but the 11-year-old couldn't finish in the time limit I gave them," she said.

The U.S. Math Federation was founded this year to promote love of math, mental math education and academic achievement for younger children.

Source: AZ Republic