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Winning a national championship: Houghton Middle School student part of victorious team

June 8, 2011
By ZACH KUKKONEN - Houghton Daily Mining Gazette , The Mining Journal

IOWA CITY, Iowa - A Houghton Middle School student can now say he is a national champion after being a part of a Michigan Naturals Mathematics team that defeated all other comers last Saturday in at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

Eighth-grade student Daniel Gershenson and 14 teammates from Michigan won the Division B title of the American Regions Mathematics League competition taking place at four different sites around the country. Although it is technically a high school competition, Gershenson still excelled and aided his team in victory.

"He's worked hard for it," said John Gershenson, his father, Houghton MathCounts coach and an assistant coach with the team over the weekend. "It's a big honor, especially to take part as an eighth-grader."

Coached by Ruth Favro, a mathematics professor at Lawrence Tech, the team fought through an entire day and four rounds of competition - three team rounds and one individual round. Although the Michigan team was spread out from throughout the state, they worked together and are now the best team in the country.

"It's a way for students, no matter where they're from, to compete head to head against the best students in the country, which is fantastic," John said. "It's done with camaraderie and fun, and the place was loud and boisterous with cheering.

"They also got to stay in the university dorms and hang out together, do things like play basketball."

For Daniel, who John believes is the first Upper Peninsula student to participate in this competition, teamwork was a little more challenging, as with practices being held in southeast Michigan, he couldn't put time in with the team as others did. Yet he did several exercises on his own and ended up with one of the four top individual scores on the team.

"Being a national champ is pretty cool," Daniel said.

Despite Daniel being the first U.P. student to participate, John feels there is room to grow for both Houghton and the whole U.P. in math competitions, and that Daniel will be the first but not the last to take part in the ARML competition.

"We've started to run middle school and high school competitions for the whole U.P. now," John said. "It's my goal to recruit schools from all across the U.P. to work to this level so they could qualify for the all-star team.

"Talent does exist in the U.P. and maybe people don't know how to get to this level or even that this level exists."

In individual competition, the national championship was won by another Michigan resident, Detroit Country Day School eighth-grade student Alex Song, who achieved a perfect score and also won when he was in sixth grade. John was immensely impressed seeing Song in person.

"This kid Alex is bright like you've never seen," John said. "He got a perfect score on the 10th grade national exam as a third-grader."

Students were chosen for the competition through a series of national math tests. For more information on the competition, visit



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