kitchen table math, the sequel: prodigy

Sunday, December 4, 2011


in the Times today:
Great things were expected of him. His math teacher at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, Stephen Willoughby, now a retiree in Tucson, Ariz., says he was a math prodigy. “I always expected Chris would win a Nobel. I just wasn’t sure what field it would be.”

Mr. Sims’s classmates voted him most likely to succeed. “In a class of intelligent people, he was exceptional,” says Joyce Tracksler, a high school friend who is now a mystery writer in Kittery Point, Me.

His parents were exceptional, too. His father, Albert, was a diplomat, and young Chris lived in Germany a few years as a child. The family later moved to the Washington suburbs before settling in Greenwich. His father became an executive at the Institute of International Education and at the College Entrance Examination Board in New York. During the Kennedy administration, he helped start the Peace Corps.

Because of his father’s College Board connections, Mr. Sims got hold of an old SAT exam, which he and Mr. Willoughby used to conduct a statistical analysis. They found that on multiple-choice questions in English and social studies, the “longer answers tended to be correct.” In math, they determined that the number that was “closest to all of the other numerical choices” was probably the right one. Mr. Willoughby says Mr. Sims got perfect scores on SATs, and his teacher assumed that the young man would later “do something involving math, statistics and probability.”
Good Morning. You're Nobel Laureates by Jeff Sommer | December 3, 2011

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