by Dennis Dalman
A Sartell Middle School eighth-grader, David Zhang, proved himself to be a math prodigy when he scored tops among 135 participants in the MathCounts competition March 11 in Plymouth.
Last year, Zhang placed second in the contest. This was his third consecutive year of competition.
Zhang, son of Shiju Zhang and Saihua Yu, is now a member of the Minnesota MathCounts team that will compete nationally May 13-16 in Tampa, Fla. The other three members of the team were the top winners, after Zhang, in the Plymouth competition.
The four-member Sartell team, which included Zhang, placed fourth in the math meet. The Sartell team placed third in 2015, also when Zhang was a member.
MathCounts, founded in 1984, is a national program that promotes mathematical excellence. It’s sponsored and coordinated by volunteers from the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers. An average of 1,200 Minnesota middle-school students are MathCounts competitors every year from various chapters within the state, although only about 150 or fewer of them qualify for state competition.
Sartell had another individual winner in statewide MathCounts in 1992 – Wesley Terwey, who placed third in the contest in 1991.
Zhang and his three team members moved on to state competition after winning the chapter meet earlier this year.
In Plymouth, the meet consisted of mostly written questions and concluded with oral questions.
“It felt good to win,” Zhang told the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader in a March 13 interview. “I was not nervous because I competed in it three times before.”
Zhang’s favorite school subject is science. He plans to study engineering, hopefully at the prestigious, world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Zhang’s father, a statistics professor at St. Cloud State University, is the volunteer coach for Sartell MathCounts. David has an older sister, Cindy, and a younger sister, Allison, both of whom also excel at mathematics.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.