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Student Named National Champion in Math Competition


When it comes to numbers, Byron Center High School senior Grant Simons has a pretty strong grasp.

The Advanced Placement Calculus BC and Advanced Placement Statistics student was recently named the national champion for 12th-grade competitors at MathCon 2015 Finals in Chicago. He won an iPad and a medal.

Byron Center had a strong showing at the event, with seven students qualifying for finals. Of more than 40,000 fifth-through-12th-grade students who participated in the qualifying round, just 700 made it to finals.

The contest has two rounds. For the first, students take an online test at their home schools. Then, those who qualify compete in Chicago by taking a 50-question multiple choice-test, based on grade level. They have 70 minutes to complete the test.

Though Grant doesn’t know his final score, he had the best of participating seniors.

District-wide, Byron Center Public Schools students were well represented at finals, with six students qualifying from Nickels Intermediate school; four from West Middle School; and a total of eight, including Grant, from the high school.

Grant said he has always done well in math, but he really started taking it seriously in high school. Now he plans to begin college at the University of Michigan in the fall with Calculus III on his schedule. He plans to major in environmental engineering and environmental sciences.

“For me, math is almost therapeutic,” he said. “When I get homework in other classes, I don’t care to do it. In math I can put on my music and do math. I don’t really think about it. I just go with the motions. I like that there is only one answer. There’s no room for debate.”

The son of Lisa Lequia and Gerald Simons, Grant also is president of the school’s Environmental Club. He is in Debate Club, Democratic Club and Student Government. He also founded a conservation program at school called Preservation Nation.

Advanced Placement Calculus teacher Leon Slagter said Grant’s math achievements– straight As all the way through — are “a heck of an accomplishment.” It’s rare to have a student who aces every advanced math class offered at the school.

“A lot of it is innate ability. He’s a smart cookie,” Slagter said. “He does a nice job helping other kids out and answering their questions. He’s a real big part of the class. So, more than just academically smart, he’s a nice kid.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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