Michael Retakh, a student at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School,...

Michael Retakh, a student at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, was a first-place winner in the National Museum of Mathematics' MoMathlon Tournament. Credit: Three Village Central School District

Two seventh-graders from Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School in Setauket have been named winners in a math competition that featured hundreds of the country's top middle school math students.

Michael Retakh and Eric Zhong were among three winners in the lower division, which included students in the seventh-grade and below, of the National Museum of Mathematics' 2021 MoMathlon Tournament. This year's competition, which was held virtually, featured students from dozens of middle schools nationwide — as well as Ukraine.

Participants were challenged to demonstrate their thinking and teamwork skills in individual, team and mix-up rounds. After the rounds, an educator led a discussion of the solutions and invited students to share their problem-solving strategies.

"I didn't think I would win; it was a mild surprise," said Michael, 12, who said he solved eight of 10 individual problems and looked at past years' questions to prepare.

Zhong, 13, added that his passion for math is "second nature."

Both students were invited to participate in the competition for being among the top-performers on their school's math team.

"I'm extremely proud," said Jacqueline Cordina, the lead math teacher at Paul J. Gelinas. "It just goes to show the level that our students strive to achieve."

Eric Zhong, a student at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School,...

Eric Zhong, a student at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, was a first-place winner in the National Museum of Mathematics' MoMathlon Tournament. Credit: Three Village Central School District

— MICHAEL R. EBERT

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