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Perfect score

Quick, what’s 137 divided by 14,000? For those of you without a calculator, it’s approximately 0.009. That’s also the percentage of Grade 7 students who achieved a perfect score on the annual Gauss Mathematics contest around the world. Elmira’s own Amitan Pope is one of those students.

On Nov. 5 the results of last May’s Gauss contest were released, and the young resident of Elmira was one of those 137 students to get a perfect score of 150 on the test – and the only student in the entire Waterloo Region to attain the lofty mark. Just over 14,000 Grade 7 students from 751 schools wrote the test.

“One of the surprising things was in past years there was always at least a few kids in Grade 7 in the area who got perfect,” said his father David Pope. “But this year he was the only one. That was kind of interesting.”

The test is administered by the University of Waterloo and is designed to help students develop their math skills along the Canadian curriculum. It is a multiple-choice test consisting of 25 questions and students had an hour to complete it. It covers many of the major mathematic concepts, including area, mass, and volume.

“It’s a little bit different than the regular curriculum,” noted Amitan, admitting that “it was pretty easy.”

MATH WHIZ Elmira's Amitan Pope, 13, is all smiles after being named Waterloo Region’s only Grade 7 student to score 100 per cent in the Gauss Math contest.

The questions on the test get steadily more difficult as students make their way from question one to 25, and they also receive zero marks for attempting the questions or showing their work – as is with the case with all multiple-choice tests, they are either right, or wrong.

The questions are scored based on their level of ease. From question one to nine, students get four points for a right answer; from 10 to 19 it’s six points for a right answer, then from 20 to 25 it’s eight points for the correct answer. The average mark for those in Grade 7 was 87.9 per cent, with the average for Grade 8 students at 99.5 per cent.

Amitan completed the test with plenty of time left over – “at least 20 minutes,” he said – but also said it was a little more challenging than last year’s test, which he wrote as a Grade 6 student. In fact, he actually had the wrong answer for the last question on the test, but the extra time meant he could go back and correct his mistake, which he said was a minor calculation error.

When Amitan took the test last year as a sixth grader he only got one question wrong, but to prepare for the test last May, Amitan said he took all of the previous tests which are available online. His mother, Cintra, was quick to point out that he did almost all of the preparation on his own. She said her son certainly didn’t get the math gene from her.

“He does them all by himself,” she said, “I can’t even explain the questions to him, so he has to figure it out all by himself.”

Amitan, 13, was raised in Elmira for most of his life. His parents moved to town from Scarborough about 10 years ago along with his 16-year-old sister Amara. They came to Canada from Trinidad about 20 years ago.

When he was in Grade 3 at St. Teresa Catholic school, Amitan was tested by a teacher who found that he was way ahead of the other kids. He attended St. Teresa until Grade 5, then moved on to the public school system, which his parents thought might help him with his gift.

Amitan attended Elmira’s Park Manor for Grade 6, but switched to a gifted class at Courtland Senior Public School in Kitchener for Grade 7. Now, he makes the 45-minute bus ride into Kitchener every day, after having to be driven every morning and night by his parents last year. He says the extra distance and time it takes to travel to the gifted school in Kitchener is well worth it.

“I would say it’s a lot more fun,” he said. “It’s more challenging and it’s more easygoing, but we do the work. A lot more work.”

His entire class – which consists of gifted students in a wide range of subjects such as art and music, not just math – wrote the test, and one of Amitan’s best friends, George Utsin, only got one question wrong.

He may be only 13 years old, but Amitan is also looking forward to his future.

“I would like to go into medicine, I like the idea of being a doctor,” he said. “I like the idea of curing people, and I’m fascinated by robotic surgery and anesthesiology. It’s pretty cool.”

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