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Middle schooler clinches top national geometry score

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Elizabeth Brown is in a league of her own. Not only is she one of the few students taking geometry at St. Mark Catholic School in Vienna, she also swept her competitors nationwide in the Catholic Math League. 

“It was pretty awesome,” said Brown of learning she had won the national championship. “I’ve been doing this contest since fifth grade, and every year I’ve slowly been getting better. I won the region last year for algebra, and my math teacher said, ‘Oh maybe next year national.’ But that never occurred to me, especially as most kids in this contest are high school students. It’s something I’ve worked hard for.”

Catholic schools participate in the Catholic Math League by administering four math tests to their students over the course of the year. “We try to incorporate these skills in our daily math curriculum, but do not coach our students for the competition or require them to do practice tests,” explained math teacher Kim Reineberg. “The tests are very difficult and require great reasoning and precise computation as all of the answers are very close.”

Brown, who is deciding between Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, most enjoys finding practical ways to use her math skills. 

For her science project this year, she explored ways to make arches stronger. “I used some geometry and then learned some calculus to apply to that project,” she said. She won first place in the math category in the Diocesan Science Fair. “I like to teach myself things. The science teacher and everyone here is very supportive of that,” said Brown.

In the future, she hopes to use her math and science skills in pediatric oncology. “I’m very fascinated with that whole subset and I like the idea of being able to predict what the cells are going to do,” she said. “At this point, it’s still a puzzle we have to solve and try to save people.”

Her twin brother, Matthew, is an accomplished pianist, while she plays violin. They play together for Mass on Fridays and Sundays. Her brother doesn’t enjoy math as much as she does, but their sibling rivalry pushes them both to excel. “Having a twin, there is motivation to try and keep doing better, because you don’t want to get the worse grade on the test,” she said.

As she looks back on her time at St. Mark, Brown is grateful for her faith-based education and the Catholic perspective it has imbued in her. “I think one of the big takeaways of this (competition) is that God gives us all talents and it’s our duty to use (them) to help other people and apply that to save lives or just make a difference in whatever way you can,” she said. 

 Read more profiles of graduating seniors in our Graduation issue, available in print May 24.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018