David Vargas' math skills and hard work added up to a silver award at a prestigious math competition in Mexico.

The Herricks High School senior was among four students on the United States team participating in the Mexican Mathematical Olympiad, a two-day competition held last month in Guanajuato.

"This was a very great honor for me," said Vargas, 17.

Of his math skills, he said: "When I was little, my mom gave me math workbooks three years ahead. It's always come easy to me."

Vargas was selected for the team based on his skills in math and Spanish after an intensive 10-day training program last summer coordinated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His teammates were from schools in Chicago, Alexandria, Va., and San Jose, Calif.

The training program is a new initiative that aims to increase participation in higher mathematics by underrepresented minorities. About 70 students applied for the 20 summer slots, association officials said.

The olympiad competition consisted of three questions over 41/2-hour stretches on back-to-back days.

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At Herricks, Vargas has completed college-level calculus classes and is a member of the school's Robotics Club and National Honor Society.