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Four eighth-graders will travel to Chicago next month to represent Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe at the national MATHCOUNTS competition.

“I’m kind of nervous,” said Rob McClure, who attends London Central High School in England. “I know there are going to be a lot of people there who are good at math.

“I’ll just try to do the best I can and not get nervous and rush everything.”

McClure will be joined by three students from schools in Germany: Matt Lane of Ramstein American Middle School, who also qualified for last year’s national contest; Nick Sorenson of Heidelberg Middle School; and Drake Sullivan of Garmisch American School.

The four qualified by receiving the highest scores last month during the contest that featured players from U.S. military schools throughout Europe.

Ronald Smith, a math teacher at Heidelberg, will coach the DODDS-Europe team on May 9-10 at the national competition at the Chicago Marriott Downtown.

“These eighth-graders are able to take the same questions we pose to juniors and sit down, take their time and work through the possibilities,” Smith said. “They don’t always have the right answer, but they always come up with verifiable options that could work. And that leads them 99 percent of the time to the right answer.

“They make mistakes, but a whole lot fewer than I thought they would.”

This year’s DODDS-Europe competition was to be conducted at Mainz-Kastel, Germany, the site of last year’s contest. But travel restrictions forced nine of the 11 teams to compete on March 19 via the Internet and fax machines.

The completed tests were faxed to the DODDS office in Wiesbaden, Germany, where they were scored and recorded. Students from Rota, Spain, and Ankara, Turkey, who had already left for Mainz-Kastel before the travel restrictions were put into effect, took their tests in Mainz-Kastel on March 18.

“Most of the questions involved a strong amount of problem-solving — a lot of algebra, a good deal of geometry and even some trigonometry,” said Smith, who is in his seventh year of teaching at Heidelberg.

“At least half the questions are high school questions.”

Sullivan, who takes Algebra I at Garmisch, said he was surprised but honored to hear he made the team.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going to Chicago and seeing the sights and things.”

McClure led the London school’s team to the Isles District Championship as well as a fourth-place finish in the Europe team contest.

“Rob led by example this year,” said Alan Campbell, the team’s MATHCOUNTS coach. “He is a solid citizen as well as an outstanding mathematician.

“One example is when I had a TDY which caused me to miss practice, Rob stepped up and ran practice for us.”

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