Four young students have done the country proud by excelling in an international mental mathematics competition in Cambodia, claiming first, second and third places in their respective categories.
Ivan Christian Maharaj, 11, Bruce Boodoo, nine, Teevan Samlal, 15 and Kristoff Seebaran, eight, travelled 17,000 km to the South-East Asian nation to compete against more than 4,000 participants from 80 countries at the Universal Concept Mental Arithmetic System (UCMAS) 24th International Competition on December 8.
After competing in the one-day event Maharaj captured first place, Boodoo placed second, while Samlal and Seebaran took third place in their respective categories. Flashing brilliant smiles, the boys were extremely proud of their achievements in an interview with Guardian Media at Palmiste Park, San Fernando.
Elated over the children’s performance, national franchisee for UCMAS T&T, Roma Ajodha-Seeberan explained that the local branch was formed six years ago, but began competing in the international competition about three years ago. This year, however, is the first time that UCMAS T&T has done so well.
The children were required to first complete 200 questions in eight minutes and the second part involved listening to questions and answering them. They were not allowed to use an abacus or calculator. The parents had to source funding for the trip. Ajodha-Seebaran said her attempts to get sponsorship from the corporate community and the Ministry of Education were unsuccessful.
UCMAS T&T, however, gives the student who places first in the national competition from which the top students are selected for the international competition, US$1,000 to help towards airfare to get to the international competition. This year the group is hoping to host fundraising events to assist the students with their travelling expenses.
Ajodha-Seebaran’s son, Kristoff, was one of the winners. She encouraged parents to get their children enrolled in the programme and explained that UCMAS T&T has seven centres throughout the country and accepts children between the ages of three and a half to 14, including slow learners or those with minor learning disabilities.
“All of our kids are doing exceptional in school because the programme focuses on getting the kids to concentrate, to be more observant, their memory power is heightened, their imagination skills are great and their self-confidence,” she said.
Her vision is to have the programme included in the national school system.
Samlal, a student of Naparima College, said he was a little nervous as it was his first time competing on an international stage.
“But when the paper was placed in front of me I said my prayers and felt calm. Two hundred questions in eight minutes is no easy task to compete but with practice and handwork I think I was able to do it well,” he said.
His dream is to become an aeronautical engineer as he has always been fascinated with aeroplanes. Seeberan, a student of Grant Memorial Presbyterian School, and Boodoo, a student of Barrackpore Vedic Primary School said they were very happy at their accomplishment which required a lot of hard work.
Seeberan boasted: “I do questions a lot more faster than everybody else in school. That’s why I kind of always finish first.”
Maharaj said his objective to become an UCMAS champion and perform the best in all his tasks.