LEWISTON — When eighth-grader Ben Lowit was a younger student, his mother would throw out multiplication questions in random conversations.
“She’s an accountant,” Ben said.
His father likes to look over Ben’s math homework. Ben challenges him to do some of the problems. “He’s pretty good at it,” he said of his father.
Velma and Jason Lowit’s love of math has rubbed off on their son.
Ben, 13, has scored the highest in Maine on the American Mathematics Competition, said Lewiston Middle School Principal Maureen Lachapelle. She takes pride that one of the school’s students bested scores from wealthier Maine communities, including Bangor, Portland and Falmouth.
The competition is not one all students take. It’s an elective exam for students highly interested in math.
Kids like Ben.
He took the exam in November. The school found out the results in late March. The exam asked 25 questions. “Ben got 21 right. The next highest score was 18,” Lachapelle said.
Ben said he was surprised. He didn’t think he’d get the best score. “I did the best I could. … The first few questions were multiple choice. They were easy,” he said.
Soon the test grew harder, more involved. The questions involved coming up with answers using geometry, algebra, “a bunch of equations” that involved multiple-step answers. That meant if he made an incorrect assumption in one part, his overall answer would have been wrong, he said. Some parts of the test were college level, his teacher said.
Ben likes math. “It’s really cool. You can have a whole bunch of problems.” Once you learn concepts, “you can solve other problems. It’s universal.”
And it’s important, he said. “It’s really good helping to design things. You can figure anything out with math.”
He’s enjoyed math more since the sixth and seventh grade, when his lessons became more complicated, and to him, more fun.
When he starts high school next year he’s planning four years of math, including honors geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, calculus, maybe statistics.
Afterward he plans to become an engineering student at the University of Maine. He wants to become a structural engineer, maybe designing energy efficient buildings or creating a robots that could be used in medicine.
For now, Ben enjoys building robots in his gifted and talented classes at the middle school, where he studies science and technology.
Teacher Desiree Spaulding has Ben in her classes. “He’s a fabulous student,” Spaulding said. “He loves to build things, especially robots. He’s just finished building a remote control robot spider. He gets so excited when the whole thing comes together.”
For his grade level, he’s two to three years ahead in math, and studies some physics with her, she said.
Because of success, during the April vacation Ben will visit the State House to meet Gov. John Baldacci. The meeting’s on the governor’s schedule for April 22.
Ben smiled and said he’s looking forward to it. “It’s a good honor,” he said.