While other pre-K children were learning to read their first sentences, Lloyd Liu already knew his multiplication tables.
In second grade, the math curriculum no longer challenged him. “It was just simple multiplication and some simple algebra,” Lloyd said.
By seventh grade, Lloyd outshined most college-bound high school seniors by scoring a perfect 800 in math on the SAT.
“Math is straightforward. You just do it,” Lloyd said. “I know when I’ve got it right.”
Lloyd, 13, a seventh-grade student at Randolph Middle School in Charlotte, N.C., is on track to take calculus in eighth grade — a course usually reserved for high school seniors. He showcases his mathematical talents in the MathCounts program, a national club and competition that promotes middle-school math achievement.
Lloyd recently competed, with his Randolph’s MathCounts team, at the regional MathCounts tournament at UNC Charlotte. Students compete individually on paper tests; results are combined to tabulate team scores.
At the competition, Lloyd got 46 of 46 problems correct, and advanced to the state level. “The problems aren’t that difficult,” Lloyd said. “But time constraints were a problem. We had 40 minutes to answer 30 questions, so it was a race against time.”
From the state competition, four students advance to nationals May 10-13 in Orlando. Lloyd is one of two Randolph students who will represent North Carolina in the upcoming competition.
“My goal is to be in the top 12 in the nation,” he said, smiling.
At Randolph Middle, Lloyd is also a part of the Horizons program for the highly gifted. When Lloyd came to Horizons, he quickly advanced through math proficiency levels. Now he is learning to use the logical thinking skills he uses in math in his other courses, said Sarah Wheeler. She is the Horizons language arts and social studies teacher at Randolph. “When he came in with me, he was a math kid ... I would like to see him broaden the idea of himself,” Wheeler said.
Andria Sullivan, Horizons math and science teacher at Randolph, said Lloyd is also a peer leader in the classroom and helps students who are having difficulty.
“Lloyd is great with his peers and helping them out,” Sullivan said. “I just hope he continues to see the beauty in math.”
Lloyd’s advice to those frustrated by a math problem: Try to understand the meaning behind the problem, in order to solve it.
“You have to understand the concept,” Lloyd said. “You don’t memorize the equation. You have to understand why.”