As he sat down and opened his test at the state math meet Saturday, Pilot Point seventh-grader Elijah Young was feeling confident.
“As soon as I was finished, I thought I’d probably make it to the top ten,” Young said.
But as the names of top scoring students were being read, Young still hadn’t heard his name as the announcer was calling off third place.
“I thought, ‘I’m not making it.’ Then they said my name,” Young said.
He had finished on top, scoring higher than any other seventh-grader in the 3A competition, and brought the championship trophy home to Pilot Point Selz Middle School.
Young and two other students, Nate Brown and Caleb Holloway, qualified for the Texas Math and Science Coaches Association State Meet at district meets earlier in the year. TMSCA prepares middle school students for UIL competition. Brown finished fourth in math and second in the science competition.
The test is timed and penalizes students for wrong answers, so a bit of strategy is involved.
“I only do questions that I know I can get the right answer on,” Young said. “Every time you miss a question, it’s minus two points and every time you get a question you get five points. So I got the highest score out of everybody.”
Out of 50 questions Young answered 19 correctly and two incorrectly. The subjects range from adding and subtracting to upper algebra.
This is only the second state meet for Pilot Point Middle School after a disappointing showing last year. Math teacher and team coach Sheri Woodall was thrilled with this team’s performance.
“It was cool. Especially since this was their first trip out, their first experience this year. Pretty amazing,” Woodall said.
Young said he’s always been good at math and that it has become his favorite subject. At 12 years old he already has aspirations to attend MIT to study computer engineering.
Woodall hopes the team’s success will attract others to math and science competitions.
“I’m hoping to get a class, so we can also get number sense and calculator in there, which really needs to be an everyday thing,” Woodall said. “If they move on to the high school level, they can go for scholarship money.”
Middle School Principal Dustin Toth said the strong performance showcases students’ academic chops. He sees the team growing in coming years.
“We really stress to our kids about excelling in everything,” Toth said. “Anytime you can recognize and people have success then other kids want to be part of that too.”