Assimilating to a new country is seldom a simple task. One thing that has helped Chaoyi “Joey” Liang learn the language was his skill at crunching numbers.
“Mathematics teaches English, so the vocabulary helped make my English easier,” said Liang, 13, at Secaucus Middle School recently.
Not only did equations help Liang—who emigrated to the U.S. from China with his family three years ago—learn the language, but it also helped him recently place in the top 5 percent in the national American Mathematics Competition Number 8 (AMC 8) for eighth graders, beating out over 130,000 other pre-teens and teens.
A humble winner
The Mathematical Association of America administers the contest. It features 25 multiple choice questions contestants must answer in 40 minutes. The Association then compared individual scores from Secaucus Middle School to scores from competing eighth graders through the country.
“He's such an amazing person, to go along with being such an amazing student.” – Principal Rob Valente
“Since an early age, when I started doing math, I liked it,” Liang said about his passion for the subject. “It just happened naturally for me.”
In an interview with a reporter, he kept his answers short and succinct, a trait Secaucus Middle School Principal Rob Valente attributed to Liang leaving his ego at the door. “He's very humble,” Valente said about Liang. “He doesn't brag. He's not one to want to stick out and stand out. We've made quite a big deal of it. Joey really amazed all of us. We're so proud of him.”
Valente added, “It's not just his math. He's such an amazing person, to go along with being such an amazing student.”
Future math plans
Liang plans on keeping math in his career window. “I want to be a math professor,” he said. “Math is everywhere in life. In computers and everything else. So I want to teach students the skills so they can strive for better.”
Both of Liang's parents tutor him on their free time.
“They find problems for me to do,” he said. “If I have a problem on an exam question, that I can't answer, they can explain it to me. They just tutor me because I have questions, and they're very glad to answer.”
True to what Principal Valente said, the young man isn't letting the success go to his head. When asked if he could possibly tutor his parents, he said quickly, “They're still better than me.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org