Unionville High student one of 14 national winners
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Special to UnionvilleTimes.com
To calculate the probability of a Unionville High freshman’s latest accomplishment, one could use some math prowess – or at least a calculator to keep track of the myriad tests and indices needed to qualify for consideration.
Shashwat Kishore’s journey to the prestigious USA Junior Mathematics Olympiad’s summer program required a series of grueling tests and near-perfect scores that left scores of competitors down for the count. The 15-year-old from Birmingham Township was one of 14 winners nationwide for 10th-grade and under, a category that began with about 240 hand-picked math whizzes, who were winnowed from a larger pool after two earlier contests.
Kishore’s possible reward for prevailing in the final round – a nine-hour test over two days – might not appeal to the math-impaired. It features a rigorous program of classes and problem-solving. While some of his classmates are lounging at the pool this summer, he will be studying areas of mathematics “which are traditionally emphasized more in other countries than in the United States,” such as combinatorial and advanced geometry, functional equations and classical inequalities, according to the web site for the American Mathematics Competition. It describes the Olympiad as “a means of identifying and encouraging the most creative secondary mathematics students in the country,” students who may become future leaders in the field.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Kishore said. In fact, he found out he had won earlier this week because another student who had checked the web site texted him a congratulatory message. “I’m very happy,” he said.
Kishore credits his 22-year-old brother, Shaunak, a student at MIT and former Olympiad winner, with piquing his interest in math in first grade. He said he attended the “buzzer round” of one of his brother’s 8th-grade competitions and got hooked. He said he has also benefitted from supportive parents. He said his father, Sheel, studied engineering while his mother, Smita, pursued chemistry.
The competitions have nurtured his math mania, which has led to applications in other fields, he said. In the recent Delaware Valley Science Fair competition, Kishore won multiple awards for a project in which he used math to try and solve an epidemiological problem. It was titled “The Effects of Preventive Measures in Malaria Control and the Impacts of Insecticide Resistant Vectors.”
To continue to excel, Kishore said he logs a minimum of a half-hour of math drills daily. “Everyone knows the material,” he said. “What makes the difference is being able to figure out how to use the facts” to solve a problem, an ability that improves with practice, he said. When a contest is approaching, he revs up to nearly two hours a day.
“My favorite part is the competition,” Kishore said. “I like to see how I measure up.”