Known locally for his budding soccer skills, Elmira’s Amitan Pope is also very proficient in mathematics. Which skill set gets top billing depends on who you’re asking.
As far as his teachers at Park Manor are concerned, the Grade 6 student is as much a mathlete as he is an athlete.
To them it’s no surprise, then, that the 11-year-old fared so well at a mathletic competition hosted last weekend by the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) at the University of Guelph.
“Very early on it was obvious that [he] enjoyed math and is quite good at it,” said Ted Frey, a Grade 7 teacher at Park Manor and Amitan’s enrichment contact.
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Both the Waterloo public and Catholic school boards were invited to participate, sending their leading candidates to the math competition for junior (Grade 6 and under) and senior (Grade 7 and 8.) students Mar. 28.
The event had a TV-show feel to it as students used “clickers” instead of paper to submit their answers. Questions relevant to the field of engineering were asked. Participants had to use logic to come up with correct answers.
The competitors went through two rounds of questions that included both multiple answers and in some instances numeric answers.
Each student received a notebook and a calculator as he or she explored concepts like efficiency, power, electricity and force. The clickers they used sent their answers directly to a computer and scores were tabulated instantly.
“I was a little nervous. But once I started I was alright,” noted Amitan.
His anxieties proved to be unwarranted, however, as Amitan claimed a first-place finish in the junior category, earning a berth in the provincial round in the fall and a $30 gift certificate for Future Shop.
On top of earning his prize, Amitan was able to see how his proclivity for math might one day be applied in the outside world.
Though he has a lot of time to explore his career options, Amitan is currently leaning toward a career in medicine, perhaps as an anesthesiologist.
For now, he’s happy solving complex problems.
“I like all of it, but I kind of like algebra the most,” he said. “Just finding out the problems, the way to get [solutions].”
When not in the classroom figuring out mathematical problems, or helping his friends with theirs, Amitan will likely be found on the soccer pitch or in front of the TV at home catching up on the latest developments in the English Premier League or in international competitions. He will as readily talk about his love for mathematics as he will about his favourite sport, soccer, covering everything from World Cup qualifying matches to Toronto FC and his beloved Red Devils.
With the weather warming up and the snow finally gone, Amitan will be spending a lot more time out on the pitch playing with the Waterloo Rep Soccer U-12 team.
On his Waterloo squad, Amitan has embraced his role as a right back, a position many kids his age would eschew in favour of the more glamorous offensive positions up front.
“Sometimes I can go up for a run – more of a defensive player than offensive,” he said.
That team mentality, of playing for the team rather than for the individual is characteristic of Amitan’s approach to most things, said his father Dave.
“Regarding Amitan’s humility, to me that’s probably why he’s so successful is his attitude towards his peers and people around him,” said his dad.