Evans Middle School Knight Brian Armstrong has a lot of academic armor.
A room filled with trophies is a testament to his math prowess.
The Columbia County Board of Education recently honored him and his math team for their first place win at the Georgia State Middle School Math Tournament, where Brian took home is own first place hardware.
"He eats, drinks and sleeps math," said his mother Elissa.
It may help that his father, Dan, is an engineer, but Mrs. Armstrong admits, "His skills go far beyond what I can do."
Brian, an eighth-grader, recently won the region competition and finished fifth in the state in the MATHCOUNTS competition. It was a "bitter-sweet victory," his mother said, since only the top four in the state go on to the national competition. What makes his fifth place finish more impressive is that he competed against high school students.
"Obviously he's very talented and very focused," said Clara McAlhany, Evans Middle School gifted math teacher and Math Team coach. "In class, he'll come back later and ask a question about something we were working on two or three problems ago. He keeps something on his mind until he gets it."
What's ironic is that his mother and McAlhany had to practically force him to join Evans Middle School's math team. This is only his second year on the team.
"Ms. McAlhany had him as a sixth grader in her advanced math class," Mrs. Armstrong said. "She wanted him on the math team, but he was a little shy and afraid of groups, so she worked on him all year long. He's not a joiner. You almost have to sign him up and make him go, then he's like, 'Yea, this is cool."'
In the summer between sixth and seventh grade, he plowed through two workbooks McAlhany had given him. When he got on the team and realized his talent, he was hooked, his mother said. Two years later, he is the captain of the Math Team.
"He has come into his own and has developed his skills with Ms. McAlhany's guidance. He actually has fun doing it," Mrs. Armstrong said.
Brian works math problems the way some enjoy crossword puzzles, she said.
"When my friends are watching TV, I'm taking home a practice test to see how well I've advanced over the last few months. Math is fun," said Brian, who plans to be an engineer.
But while Brian may have a natural gift, Mrs. Armstrong credits 22-year teaching veteran McAlhany for honing those skills.
"Most of the members on this team have had brothers and sisters that have been on her team," Mrs. Armstrong said. "Ms. McAlhany is known all around the state. The kids all love her, and she's dedicated to the children."
2002 Evans Middle School Math Team accomplishments:
Georgia Southern Math Meet, Feb. 9, Junior High Division, 32 schools, 89 teams, 345 students: EMS team finished first place, Brian Armstrong finished as first place individual.
MATHCOUNTS, Feb. 16, Augusta Chapter, 11 schools, 15 teams, EMS team finished in first place, Brian Armstrong finished as first place individual, Scott Hartenstein finished third, Lauren Middleton and Stephen Walls also finished in the top 16.
MATHCOUNTS, March 16, Georgia State, 23 teams, 138 individuals (each had won chapter contests), EMS team finish in fifth place, Brian Armstrong finished in fifth place
Greater Atlanta Christian Math Meet, March 23, PreAlgebra Team finished in third place in the division, Stephen Walls finished eighth in the division, Lauren Middleton finished ninth. The Algebra Team finished in second place in the division, Brian Armstrong finished in second place in the division, Scott Hartenstein finished sixth, Chris Baugh finished seventh, Ashley McKeon finished ninth.
Georgia Council of Teachers of Math State Middle School Math Tournament, April 20, EMS finished first, Brian Armstrong won first, Scott Hartenstein placed sixth. Team members were: Brian Armstrong, Scott Hartenstein, Lauren Middleton, Stephen Walls, Chelsea Shuggars, Ashlee Williams, Brandon Foster, and Scott Broderick. Ms. McAlhany has been teaching math for 22 years and has been coaching math teams for 15 years. "My teams usually do well, but this one has been particularly good," she said.
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