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February 14, 2013

Shining & smiling

Garcia’s feat exemplifies efforts of many UIL participants

Athens — When the going got tough, Angel Garcia just got tougher. Now he has a shiny, gold medal to show for his efforts.

Garcia, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Athens Intermediate School, took home a first-place ribbon in Number Sense at the UIL academic competition held in Brownsboro in December.

Lots of kids bring home first-place medals each year — in fact, Athens Intermediate’s fourth and fifth graders each brought home district championships in December. But Garcia’s situation is a little more interesting because of his determination.

Finishing sixth in Ready Writing last year left a bad taste in the mouth of the precocious Garcia — who said he was still grateful to finish that high. Even so, he went home and made a promise to his parents, Juan and Yeni Garcia.

“This year I told my mom I was determined to do better and bring home a first place for her,” Angel recalled earlier this week. “I knew if I did my best I would succeed because I’m pretty good at math.”

Number Sense isn’t for the faint of heart. You see, it’s not merely math — it’s math done with no scratch paper. All calculations must be done in the competitor’s head, and no eraser marks are allowed. Students have 10 minutes to finish 30 questions.

Angel said his parents have always been good at math, and that has helped him through school. Although he’s involved in many activities — he’s a brown belt in karate and going through communion classes at St. Edwards Catholic Church when he isn’t playing soccer, basketball or football with his friends and family — Mrs. Garcia said their family stresses education first.

“He always tries his hardest,” she said. “For him to take things so serious, but to still have fun with things, makes us so proud..”

The first 15 questions of the UIL competition were easy, Angel said. The remaining questions required a bit more thought, and he ended up finishing 25 of 30.

Scores are compiled by taking the number of problems right and multiplying by 5 and taking the number wrong and multiplying by 9. Any problems left unanswered are considered wrong.

Angel said waiting for the results was hard. “It took forever!” he said. But once the results were posted on the wall, he said all the students ran to see how they had done.

He saw his name at the top and admitted he couldn’t believe it.

“I was kind of in shock, but then all my friends started patting me on the back and telling me ‘good job,’ and that made me feel good.”

Even so, he still double-checked with his Number Sense coach Alejandro Guzman to make sure those were the final results.

Angel credits Mr. Guzman, as well as his math teacher, Carol Gideon, with his success. He said Mr. Guzman helped calm the nerves of many participants by telling them how the contest would be conducted and what they could expect to happen.

Guzman — who noted that Angel also participated with other AIS students in the recent “Mathletics” event at the East Texas State Fair’s Academic Rodeo — said the fact Angel never missed a practice contributed to his success.

Angel is the kind of student, Guzman said, that is dedicated and always up for a challenge.

“He can really focus on something, and he will solve the problem,” said Guzman, who teaches math and social studies at AIS. “He was solving fifth- and sixth-grade problems all in his head.

“And he does it with a smile, and that’s really important. Some students will get really stressed, but not him.”

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