Adam Hesterberg is the calculating type; eighth-grader's math smarts add up to a win at national championship

For 13-year-old Adam Hesterberg, a Magnolia resident and an eighth-grader at Washington Middle School who won the 2003 MATHCOUNTS National Competition, solving math problems has always come easily. Extremely sharp and articulate, Adam said matter-of-factly that he enjoys exploring math and teaching it to others.

"My favorite things to do are solving math problems, giving math problems to people and making up math problems," Adam said.

Adam's journey to the national victory was long. He first entered school team tryouts. He then competed at a local level, followed by a state-level contest. After taking second place in Washington state, Adam was considered good enough to move on to the 2003 MATHCOUNTS National Competition in Chicago. Adam competed against 227 other kids from all 50 states and U.S. territories.

Adam's mother, Bev Hesterberg, witnessed her son win in the final round of questions. "It was extremely thrilling," she said, with a laugh.

No doubt. Adam won a $10,000 college scholarship, a trip to U.S. Space Camp, a notebook computer and a printer.

Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, MATHCOUNTS is a national math coaching and competition program for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Its founding sponsors are the C.N.A. Foundation, the National Society of Professional Engineers and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. MATHCOUNTS is also sponsored by several other entities, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, General Motors Foundation and Lockheed Martin.

All of Adam's classes, except math, are part of Washington Middle School's Accelerated Progress Program, or APP, a level two years higher than the typical eighth-grade curriculum. Since he excels well beyond his years in math, Adam currently studies calculus online through the University of Washington.

The young teen's affinity for math may partially come from his father, a statistician, or his mother, a former math teacher. When asked if Adam gets help in calculus from either parent, his mother replied, "He doesn't need help."

The young math wiz became aware of his talent at an early age.

"The earliest I can remember, I was 5," Adam said. "My parents had a road map of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. I would find the distances between major cities by drawing a line and adding up the distances. I was right every time."

Other than doing math, Adam says he enjoys politics and computer games.

"He's not thrilled with sports or music," his mother explained. "What he loves to do is math. He hates TV."

Adam's parents knew early on that their son had intellectual talent.

"He was 2 when I first noticed," Bev said. "We were looking together in the index of a nursery rhyme book, and he could look through and know the order of numbers. If he was looking for 96 and he got to 100, he knew he had gone too far and he'd go back. For a 2-year-old, that's pretty amazing. By the time he was 5, he could multiply and add long columns of numbers."

Adam is a teacher's assistant for three periods a day in math, grading tests and creating increasingly difficult math problems for other kids to solve, according to his teacher, Gary Pounder.

"He likes to challenge himself," Pounder said. "He's very driven, very goal-oriented, very math. He's got vision. I give him a [math] problem; the kid looks at it, sees it and knows it. There's some stuff I see, and I scratch my head. He never misses a problem. He's very gifted."

Adam said he is looking forward to more math competitions in the coming years. He said he wants to enter some field of math in the future, but is not yet sure which one.

An extraordinary summer awaits the 13-year-old, who plans to attend more than just U.S. Space Camp.

"I'm looking forward to math camp," he said.

The MATHCOUNTS National Competition will be broadcast on ESPN this Thursday, May 29, at 9 a.m.

Freelance writer Susan Eick is a Seattle-area resident. She can be reached at
[[In-content Ad]]