School-Based Teacher Leader Eleanor Castelberry, Robert Sun, Ao Kong, Principal Carol Domb and FIM Ambassador Cred Dobson. (Photo courtesy Matt Seaver-Studio XI Photography)
Eighth-grader Ao Kong outperformed more than 300,000 of her peers nationwide to claim the title of #1 Player, All Grades, in the First In Math® Online Program—AGAIN! Kong is the program’s first two-time winner, scoring her victories back-to-back in the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 school years. Kong, who attends General George A. McCall Elementary in the School District of Philadelphia’s Central City Region, led the field for months, ending up with a whopping 44,860 stickers as of the April 30 First In Math “Top Ten” competition deadline.
When asked if she wanted a second Apple iTouch, the Grand Prize, Kong opted for something that would recognize her unique status as a two-time #1 Player instead. Kong was presented with a crystal award for ‘Extraordinary Mathematics Achievement in the First In Math® Online Program.’ The award, says Sun, almost does not seem enough. “I don’t know if I can explain the staggering amount of effort, patience and perseverence that went into this achievement. Anyone who thinks this was easy should be aware of the fact that Ao solved approximately 135,000 math problems, up to and including two-step algebra, geometry and trigonometry, to earn the top spot.”
This is the third year in a row Kong has achieved National All-Star status in the program. She is looking forward to attending Central High School in the Fall.
Ao Kong – 2008 Program Champion
Seventh-grader Ao Kong outperformed nearly 250,000 of her peers across the nation to claim the title of #1 Player in the First In Math® Online Program for the 2007-2008 school year! First In Math creator Robert Sun presented Kong with a “First In Math National All-Star” award, and the Grand Prize, an Apple iTouch®.
“During our conversation, Ao and I discovered some pretty amazing similarities,” explains Sun, who met Kong at a special luncheon. “I moved to Philadelphia from Shanghai, China when I was nine, as did Ao. Both her parents are physicians, as were mine. I love chocolate, and my favorite color is blue,” says Sun. “Me too,” says Ao, momentarily flashing her trademark reserved smile.
According to McCall Elementary School-Based Teacher Leader Eleanor Castelberry and Principal Carol Domb, Ao is a great student in all subject areas, not just math. Ao’s father says that his daughter was very determined, and spent hours on the computer every night. When asked if winning the Apple iTouch® was the motivation for her incredible achievement Ao answered, “No. I just wanted to be #1.” She says she planned her strategy at the beginning of the school year, and never waivered.
Kong, who attends General George A. McCall Elementary in the School District of Philadelphia’s Central City Region, led the field for several months, amassing 33,511 stickers as of the April 30 First In Math “Top Ten” competition deadline. She also achieved National All-Star status last year, finishing among the Top Ten players in the nation as a sixth-grader. (read story)
Hannah Sonsalla – 2007 Program Champion
Hannah Sonsalla held the rank of #1 player, ALL GRADES, for several months, prevailing over close to 200,000 1st- through 8th-grade students across the country. She ended the 2007 FIM season with 24,408 stickers—the most ever earned in the program—besting her nearest competitor by nearly 1,000 stickers.
Hannah attends Sandhill School in Stoughton, Wisconsin. She participates in many academic teams, including Knowledge Masters and 24 Challenge®. “Hannah is amazing at the 24® game, she knows each card as soon as it hits the table,” says former teacher Lynda Oleinik, a Talented and Gifted Programming Specialist. At the district 24 Challenge® tournament, she easily won and advanced to the Greater Dane County tournament. There she met 4th graders from surrounding districts. “Kids learned quickly that if they were going to get a single card at a table where Hannah was playing, they had to tap in on the card and then hope to be able to give the final fact and solve the card. The same happened this year at the 5th grade tournament, where Hannah took almost every point available to her in the rounds.”
The energetic fifth-grader balances her time between many other activities, including 4-H, piano and Girl Scouts.
Shonak Patel – 2006 Program Champion
Seventh-grader Shonak Patel of Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem, PA, grabbed the #1 spot nationally among ALL grades in the First In Math Online Program for near the end of the 2006 season. Shonak amassed a total of 22,572 stickers. Only six students nationwide topped the 20,000-sticker mark during the 2005/2006 school year!
Shonak has a developmental disability called Asperger Syndrome, sometimes known as high-functioning autism. In 2005, he topped Carnegie Mellon University’s summer math program for gifted students during a week-long contest. But he says the high point of his life was when 24® Game inventor Robert Sun sent him a personally-signed 24® game set during the 2006 school year.
“To succeed, you must play patiently,” explains Shonak, “as it does not matter what rank you hold in the first few months!”
Vladamir Flys – 2005 Program Champion
Seventh-grader Vladamir Flys achieved celebrity status as a national math superstar with the First In Math® Online Program. Flys looked stunned as he was awarded a gold medal in front of two TV news cameras for becoming the #1 student in the entire nation—all grades. Flys surpassed more than 105,000 elementary and middle school students currently competing in the program in 25 states.
He found his inspiration after reading a front-page article on First In Math awards presented to a Philadelphia fifth-grader. “I thought I could still make it to #1 on First In Math, which I liked so much. So for a month, sometimes 7 hours a night, I played and played until I beat him,” Flys exclaimed.
Born in the Ukraine, Flys’ family moved to the United States almost two years ago, after living in Argentina for about ten years. Fluent in Ukrainian, Russian and Spanish, Flys is currently an ESL (English as a Second Language) student, and he strives to succeed in not only mathematics, but in other subjects at Baldi MIddle School in Philadelphia.