Novi whiz is one of 10 nationwide picked for math competition

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Courtesy of Detroit News:


Novi— Raj Raina is passionate about math.

The 15-year-old relishes solving equations, loves geometry, and can’t get enough math during the regular school week, so he attends special math classes on Saturdays.

His penchant for numbers has paid off.

The Novi High School sophomore is the only contender from Michigan — and only one of 10 students across the country — selected to compete for $10,000 in the 2012 national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician” event in Boston next month. The top prize is $5,000 for the winner and $5,000 for the math department of the winner’s school.

The Jan. 6 competition is sponsored by the American Mathematical Society and more than 6,000 mathematicians are expected to attend. The top 10 students were selected based on a qualifying test with questions on algebra, trigonometry, probability and math history, administered by high school math teachers nationwide.

Raj is excited about the possibility of winning. In an understated way.

“I was surprised that I was selected, but didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” he said. “But I guess it is pretty cool.”

Raj is a normal kid who enjoys playing Xbox, going to the movies with friends, or bowling, even though he says he’s terrible at it. But he also knows he stands out when it involves calculations.

“I knew I was good in math and flourished in it,” he said. “But it wasn’t until I was in the eighth grade that I found I really liked it.”

Mike Breen of the American Mathematical Society, said Raina received a perfect score on the qualifying test.

A sample question is, “Use digits a, b, and c to form a three-digit number abc. How many such numbers between 100 and 200 are prime, and have the property that ab, acand bc(each considered as two-digit numbers) are themselves all prime?” The answer is 6.

“Who Wants to Be a Mathematician allows the (society) and other sponsors to reward good math students and gives the public a chance to see excellent math students in action, the same way people watch athletes perform their skills,” Breen said.

Raj’s parents, Reeta, an optometrist, and Adhinav Raina, a cardiologist, are his biggest cheerleaders.

“It is a great honor, and me and my husband are so proud of this achievement,” said Reeta Raina. “He just loves math, and when you find something you’re good at, you feel so confident.”

Raj also participated in the national STEM Science Fair at the White House, hosted by President Barack Obama in 2010, and in that same year, was invited by the United Nations to speak at a conference on the environment and sustainability.

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