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Dutcher geometry students have formula for success
Dutcher Middle School students pose with their Math Superbowl awards, pictured from left to right: Erika Gonzalez in her Civil War Day costume received fourth place, Neema Rashidi took first place and Joven Hundal placed third. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Dutcher Middle School students Joven Hundal, Erika Gonzalez and Neema Arishida have many things in common: they have all performed perfectly on the mathematics portion of the California Standards Test, they all have 4.0 grade point averages and they all placed in the annual Mathematics Superbowl competition through the Stanislaus Math Council.

More than having an aptitude for math, these three geometry students have excelled because they enjoy the challenging and rewarding nature of the subject. On April 12, Hundal, Gonzalez and Arishida made their way to Modesto Junior College to compete in the Superbowl where Arishida took first place, Hundal took third place and Gonzalez took fourth place. Comprised of a variety of events that require students to compete individually and as part of a team, the Superbowl was a testament to not only the students’ ability but their preparation and commitment.

“The extra work load can pile up while studying for the Superbowl, and cut into time like hanging with friends, but if you manage your time well you won’t fall behind,” said Arishida.

To prepare for the competition, the students received sample questions three times a week during lunch which they worked on as a team, while also practicing on their own time. While many junior high students would shudder at the thought of additional math homework, these students enjoy the challenge.

“When it is something that you enjoy, you don’t think of it as a test. You think of it as a sport or an activity. It is fun for us,” said Gonzalez.

For Hundal, who is familiar with competing as he participated in the Superbowl last year as a sixth grade algebra student, he strategizes on test day by saving the hardest problems for last and completing the easier problems first. He also possesses strong memorizations skills, which are essential for math competitions as the problems often contain many formulas within them.

“Mental math as been easy for me, so I’ve stuck with it and that’s how I got where I am today. I also memorize things pretty quickly so I can pick up the formulas, which is very helpful,” said Hundal.

When the students aren’t busy studying math, they spend their time and energy on several other extracurricular activities. Arishida has played the piano for nine years, competed in the Stanislaus County Future City Competition, which requires students to engineer a city with real life scientific applications, and enjoys playing soccer and basketball for Dutcher. Hundal has played the piano for five years and enjoys competing in a variety of arenas including spelling bees, at which he got fourth place in the state competition in fifth grade. He was also the only junior high student to compete in the Future Business Leaders of America conference this year. When Gonzalez is not studying math, she spends her time studying several types of dance including ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop through a scholarship she received from Backstage Academy of Dance.  Gonzalez was also the title character in Dutcher Middle School’s production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" this year.