Three students from San Diego French-American School in La Jolla placed among the top in the world at the spring 2016 “La Course aux Nombres” (Race for Numbers) math competition. Schools within the French-International Network (about 500 worldwide) were invited to participate, and SDFAS students Emma Berman, Alexander Price and David Llewellyn Smith had some of the best scores. They received certificates at a small ceremony in early June.
Head of School Christian Jarlov explained, “The contest is quite challenging because the students have to find answers as quickly as possible to 28 math problems. The contest starts easy and gets harder, and participants have only seven minutes to solve all 28 problems. You really have to be quick and cannot make mistakes. It’s a matter or being good with numbers and being quick with mental calculations, so you can solve the problems.” The test is administered online.
Because of repeated high scores, Alexander placed first among sixth-graders for the United States and placed second internationally. He and his classmates are under the guidance of math teacher Catherine Mevel.
Eligible classes were given an initial test as part of the contest, and those that did well enough were invited to go online and take practice tests before the big time. For 11-year-old Emma, those practice tests made a huge difference.
“I like to improve wherever I can, so I practiced at home every night,” she said. “It’s like riding a bike. When I did my first test, I thought I needed to practice more like when I fell off my bike for the first time. I fell off, but I kept practicing and now it’s easier and more fun.”
David, 12, said he practiced a few times a week, but found the test to be easy. Having competed in other math competitions, he said he is “pretty good at math.”
Alexander, who scored high enough to earn first place, said he thought he did “terrible and was going to fail” the initial test and was surprised at his results. “I was so nervous,” he said. “But I guess I did OK on the first test, and I got 27 out of 30 on the last test. I was really surprised when I won the whole thing.”
He added, “I like math because doing calculations is interesting to me and arithmetic is fun for me.”
Although not “extremely surprised,” Jarlov said he is proud of his students. “We know that their results are due to the very strong academic environment where they study.”