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Striving for perfection

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Emily Toepfer's picture
MILLENNIUM HIGH SCHOOL senior Isaac Charcos, front, and junior Ryan Chou work a math problem on a white board Feb. 24 at the Goodyear school. Charcos and Chou got perfect scores on the math portion of the ACT and SAT, respectively. View photo by Jordan Christopher
MILLENNIUM HIGH SCHOOL senior Isaac Charcos, front, and junior Ryan Chou work a math problem on a white board Feb. 24 at the Goodyear school. Charcos and Chou got perfect scores on the math portion of the ACT and SAT, respectively. View photo by Jordan Christopher

Millennium students continue to ace math tests

Millennium High School might have to start a new club soon — the Perfect Math Score Club.

The two latest inductees would be senior Isaac Charcos, 17, and junior Ryan Chou, 16, who recently earned perfect scores on the math portion of the ACT and SAT, respectively.

It’s become a yearly trend at the Goodyear campus to have at least one student earn a perfect math score on a standardized test, something math teacher Mel Artz attributes to the school’s International Baccalaureate program.

It’s a very rigorous program that really takes them into a lot of different mathematics, and they have to learn how to manipulate problems and work with problems,” he said.

Artz, who has taught both teens for the last few years, said he can usually sense if a student will do well on the ACT and SAT tests.

Sometimes math can be difficult for students and they want an algorithm or to see step by step, how does it work? These students are usually beyond that, and they’re really critical thinkers,” he said.

For the SAT, a perfect score on each of the three subjects is 800, for a total of 2,400. On the ACT, which has four parts, a perfect rating in each category is 36 and the final score is an average of all the sections.

Ryan took two practice SAT tests and got a perfect math score on one and missed it by one question on the other, he said.

When it came time to check his scores for the actual test, a camera captured his reaction.

My friend recorded me in math class dancing around the room, because I was so excited,” Ryan said.

He plans to attend Brigham Young University, and his SAT scores qualify him for a full tuition scholarship all four years as long as his GPA stays in a certain range, he said.

Isaac, who plans to study aerospace engineering at either Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology, said teachers at Millennium do a good job making sure students understand the concepts they’ll need for the tests.

I think I was pretty confident that I could do well, because the teachers do pretty well in preparing us for math in general,” Isaac said.

While math is required for students in high school, Ryan is usually working on problems in his spare time, too, he said.

There’s always some big math question I’ve been pondering,” he said. “One thing that I do is I try to find easier ways to do things, which sometimes is harder at the beginning but then once you figure it out, you can do things a lot faster and more easily.”

There’s definitely a satisfaction of working through a problem and being able to solve it using your repertoire of math skills you’ve accumulated over the years,” Isaac added.

Both teens agree that practice makes perfect when it comes to the standardized tests.

Free SAT practice tests can be taken at khanacademy.org, and sample ACT questions can be found at act.org.

That’s super helpful if you have time, because it tells you what areas you struggle in,” Ryan said. “You take a diagnostic test and it tells you what areas you do well in and what areas you didn’t, and helps you really focus your practice on what you don’t know.”

He also used a phone app called the Daily Practice to incorporate it into his regular routine.

You can download a bunch of questions at a time and when you’re not doing anything, instead of just sitting there you can make effective use of your time,” Ryan said.

The best way Isaac found to practice was to work on his timing since both the ACT and SAT are timed.

The concepts we already have down from our teachers,” he said. “After you practice, it becomes pretty natural.”

Ryan agreed that spending too much time on one problem can hurt your score.

I hadn’t taken geometry in forever, so I knew most of it but there was one question I didn’t know,” he said. “Instead of just trying to work through the problem — which I probably could have found the answer eventually — I skipped that one and went on because I knew I didn’t have time. Then at the end, I went back to that one and worked on it.”

Besides a rigorous class load, Ryan has participated in basketball, swimming and track during high school, and acted in Millennium’s production of The Wizard of Oz.

Isaac’s extracurricular activity for the last year has been volunteering at a lab at ASU, where he’s helping to analyze animal movements on granular terrain in order to make models for vehicles to move better on the same types of land.

I emailed a professor on their website with a resume and told him I really wanted to work there, and they accepted me,” Isaac said.



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