AP Math Amuses Sophomore
By PATTI S. BORDA
The News-Post of Frederick
MIDDLETOWN, Md. (AP) — Kundan Chintamaneni’s mother cannot keep up with the star calculus student’s use of sticky notes and scrap paper to solve the latest problem in the array of competitions he is always entering.
The Middletown High School sophomore leaves sheets of paper with precisely written mathematical equations chock-full of Greek symbols and parentheses scattered about his house. Sometimes he sits at the empty formal dining room table to put the final touches on regional and statewide math competition answers.
When he takes a break to play computer games or watch television, he may leave his papers there, like the answer to a great mystery waiting to be discovered.
Walking through the impeccably kept rooms of the family’s house, Kundan’s mother, Nirmala Chintamaneni, pointed with embarrassment to papers here and there and said she refrains from discarding any she finds. She is not sure whether a scrap contains an irrelevant calculation or an essential part of a multi-page answer.
“You don’t know how many papers he has,” she said. “Papers everywhere.”
Regular meals are taken in the kitchen, when Kundan’s new laptop computer is not set up on the table there. Winnings from his math and chess competitions helped pay for the MacBook Pro he now prefers to the old desktop computer the family shares.
Kundan’s perfect score on the advanced placement calculus test he took last spring, when he was a freshman at Middletown, brought no money but some unexpected publicity. He was one of 17 students in the world to achieve a perfect score on the AP exam, and a news release recently alerted the media.
“I had no idea they’d do anything like this,” Kundan said, sitting in his kitchen with a reporter.
That sense of wonder did not surprise Matt Schmidt, Kundan’s AP calculus teacher.
“There’s no ego with Kundan,” Schmidt said in a telephone interview. “He’s naturally a quiet student.”
Kundan’s father, Chintamaneni P. Choudari, said the reference to 17 perfect scores in the world might be a little hyperbole since AP tests involve mostly U.S. students. Nonetheless, Choudari, a gastroenterologist, could not help being proud.
Choudari and his wife spend much of their free time driving Kundan to math competitions and chess matches around the state.
“Blessed” is how Choudari said he feels about their son’s remarkable talent. “What else can I say?”
“I have nothing to do with this,” Choudari said with a smile. He and his wife claim no special math skills.
Students in Schmidt’s AP classes are mostly juniors and the occasional sophomore. Kundan was the first freshman to take his class, he said.
The College Board reported that 94,403 students took the AP Calculus BC exam that Kundan took in 2012. It tests for knowledge of Calculus I and II, comparable to eight hours of college credit, Schmidt said.
Across all 3.7 million AP exams that 2.1 million students took in 2012 in all subjects, 88 students earned every possible point on an AP exam, the College Board reported. The board characterized a perfect score as “an extraordinary academic achievement.”
Kundan answered every multiple-choice question correctly and earned full points on each of the essays in the free-response section of the exam, earning 108 out of 108.
“It’s awesome to accomplish such a feat,” Schmidt said.
Kundan’s mother said she was a little surprised last spring that Kundan was not attending exam prep sessions offered outside class. Instead, he was relaxing with the family at times she knew the teacher was having extra practices.
Nothing on the exam surprised Kundan, and he said he was confident he had done well, although perfect was not what he assumed.
“If you prepare, you kind of know what you’re expecting,” he said.
He has helped tutor students in algebra as a member of the Mu Alpha Theta national math honor society. Schmidt said Kundan has a gift for explaining math in simple terms to students who need help and discussing the most complex equation in calculus class.
“It’s an understanding that’s superior,” Schmidt said. “It is amazing what he can accomplish.”
Kundan is grateful to his teachers for “just making it interesting,” all the way back to elementary school, he said. He enjoyed winning prizes from teacher Joe Daly for solving a weekly math problem in his fourth-grade gifted and talented magnet class at North Frederick Elementary School.
Choudari is very pleased with Schmidt and Middletown guidance counselor Sue Mentzer-Blair, he said. Kundan’s older brother Vaeman, who will start medical school at Boston University next year, worked with Mentzer-Blair as a member of Middletown’s 2010 class.
“I’m a very strong believer in public education,” Choudari said.
Schmidt said he expects to read in a newspaper someday about Kundan’s achievements as an adult — whatever he decides to pursue.
Kundan said he is not sure what that will be.
He plays a little tennis and the cello — which he does not practice enough, he said. After school, he may relax by playing Minecraft or StarCraft on his computer, watch TV, or do some math.
“I’m usually thinking of a problem all the time,” he said.
Those challenges have amused him longer than he can remember. When he was little, his mother said, he would disappear from a play group to figure out problems on paper.
“It’s fun to me,” Kundan said.
“He just naturally loves it,” Schmidt said.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)