"At first I couldn't believe it," Nitin said, reflecting upon the news of the competition's results. "I was just really happy that I got second place."
Nitin's father, Ashok Kumar, said he and his wife were elated to learn of their son's accomplishment. "It feels great that he did so well, and we're really proud of him."
According to Kumar, the nine-year-old Nitin loves math and has "enjoyed figuring out complex problems ever since he was young." Then again, Kumar added, his boy has proven adept at all things academic, so much so that he skipped a grade when he was 6. "He's good at everything."
"I like math, because it's a way to solve complex problems and it helps me get the answers to real life problems," Nitin said.
Kumar first read about the preliminary round of the competition in an article in the Voice. He encouraged his son to enter, and Nitin earned a perfect score in three math-based challenges — The Counting Game, Magic Squares and Mental Math Workout.
The Counting Game tests a student's ability to "count from any number to any number by any number," Magic Squares awards points to students for creating their own math problems, and Mental Math Workout evaluates "number sense by asking them to solve given problems the 'smart' way, without pencil and paper," according to a Mathnasium press release.
After his very strong showing in the local competition, Nitin was given a final brief test that required him to "arrive at the largest number and smallest number with a given set of numbers and operations." According to Kumar, this final exam was intended to test how Nitin and other finalists think about numbers. In the end, the national panel of Mathnasium judges felt that Nitin was just shy of being the best of all the fifth-grade submissions they received. He took second place to the first-place fifth-grader, Ronit Kumar (no relation).
"We hope this competition was a fun and rewarding experience that continues to strengthen (his) passion for math," said Kobad Bugwadia, the owner of the local Mathnasium franchise where Nitin first competed.
Of all the prizes Nitin will receive, he said he is most excited about the $750. "It's the most valuable and it could help me do something or I could save it for when I need it," he said. His father said that they may end up putting the money toward Nitin's college fund.
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