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MathCounts for Boonsboro teen

April 15, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Boonsboro Middle School eighth-grader Frank Liao is one of several students from Maryland who will compete in the National MathCounts competition in May. On the chalkboard is a geometry problem he solved.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO —  It's not exactly a spectator sport, but if it was, most people attending the Maryland State MathCounts competition in March would have seen a slam dunk.

The participants, after all, are known as "mathletes."

And Frank Liao was at the top of his game.

From a field of 173 skilled math students, Frank won third place and now advances to the national finals Thursday, May 5, through Sunday, May 8, in Washington, D.C.

An eighth-grader at Boonsboro Middle School, he is one of four Maryland students who will represent the state.

Competing in MathCounts at the regional, state and national levels takes a lot of studying and practice, the 13-year-old Hagerstown boy admits.

But he doesn't consider it work.

"It's fun," he said. "I've always enjoyed working out problems. And there's always something harder to challenge you."

Even before he started school, Frank said his parents encouraged him to excel in math.

In first grade, when other students were adding with their fingers, Frank said he knew the answers.

"And once I started working hard at it, I realized I was good at math. From then on, it became one of my favorite subjects."


When Frank graduates from middle school this year, he will have completed algebra and geometry.

But while math comes easy to the teen, "he works at it, too," said Boonsboro Middle School math teacher Roy Struble, who, along with teacher Jane Artman, also is a MathCounts coach.

"I recruited Frank last year for MathCounts," Struble said. "I knew he would be good. In class, he's a hard-working student. But he also is helpful to others who are struggling." 

He also helped fellow MathCounts teammates before the regional competition by making up four pages of formulas, square roots and tips as a study guide, Struble said.

"Not many other students would take the time to do that," he said.

While Frank is proud of his individual accomplishment, he said he is proud of Boonsboro Middle School's official MathCounts team, which brought home trophies by winning sixth place from among 26 teams in the state contest. Participants could compete in both the team and individual categories.

Frank said he and fellow MathCounts classmates get together at least once a week throughout the school year to work on problems "and just have fun with math."

"Math is cool," he said. "And it's something that can help you in real life."

Frank said he hasn't decided about a college major or a future career, "but math will probably somehow be involved," he said.

Right now, he's focusing on doing well at MathCounts.

"I think it would be a stretch if I won it, but I hope to at least make the top 25," he said.  

"When you figure about 100,000 students participated in MathCounts across the country and now Frank is one of 224 students going to nationals — that's a real big deal."

But Frank gives all the credit to his parents.

"My mom and dad grew up in China and studied hard," he said. "I get a lot of my work habits from my parents. They've also helped me out a lot, explaining problems and helping me practice. They deserve a lot of credit."

Frank is the son of Weidong Liao and Mei Chen. His father is a computer science professor at Shepherd University and his mother is a software developer and Web designer.

When he's not doing math, Frank said he likes to "hang out with my friends, go sledding in the winter and do dance choreography — "which is something people probably don't know about me."

Frank said his friends are excited that he is going to the national MathCounts.

"I guess to a lot of people, it's about what you wear, how you look — not how well you do in school," he said. "But a lot of kids think it's pretty amazing how I got to this level."

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