Applying practical mathematics

Soccer, sailing and Rubik's Cubes are just a few things where 12-year-old Jacob Rosenberg has discovered he can use math to gain the advantage.

Angles help him shoot better, calculating opponents' scores during a sailing match lets him decide his next move, and the Rubik's Cube is just a bunch of different algorithms, he said.

"[Math] kind of just comes naturally now," he said.

Jacob is in Mesa View Middle School's Gifted and Talented Program. The Ocean View School District's magnet school offers students accelerated classes in sixth to eighth grade.

In Jacob's math class, teacher Lorie Kooken teaches the sixth-grade students seventh-grade math. It was in that class that Jacob placed first in the nation in an online, timed math competition, Educontest.

"He's so gifted. I've never seen anything like it," said Kooken, who also has Jacob for science.

The students take the 30-minute test four times a year, and the top three highest scores are counted.

The competition tests students' math reasoning, critical thinking and word-problem skills.

Jacob began the competition in fourth grade, but didn't really understand what it was, he said. He placed top in the state in fourth grade and top 10 in the nation in fifth grade, but it wasn't until this year that he finally achieved his goal, said his mother, Caroll Ann Rosenberg.

"It felt good because I've been doing it for three years and I finally got it," Jacob said.

Math has always been Jacob's favorite subject, partly because he's good at it, he said.

Jacob also said he likes competition and worked hard for Educontest.

"It wasn't like just another thing to do," he said. "It meant something to me."

A career using mathematics would seem like the likely choice for the gifted student, but Jacob hasn't given it much thought and isn't going to.

"I don't need to think about it until I get older," he said.

Whatever he does decide to do, Kooken said she knows it will be great and she can say she knew him back when.

"Whatever it is, it will be amazing," she said.

Right now, though, he is trying flag football for the first time and getting ready for a summer of sailing.

While some parents worry about their kids going three months without school, Rosenberg isn't.

"In the summer, his math brain never goes idle," she said.

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