New Castle News

September 16, 2013

New Castle student an ace at math SAT

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — John Maas has raised the bar for other students wanting to attain perfect SAT scores, according to his math teachers.

Maas, a New Castle High School senior, has continuously impressed his teachers as a studious, mannerly, excelling and all-around great student.

But their admiration of him leaped to new heights with an achievement that few students in the United States can boast.

The 17-year-old Maas scored 800 — that’s 100 percent — on the math portion of his SAT.

Now, other competitive honors math students want to be like him and already are talking about trying to attain perfect scores in more than one subject, according to Maas’ high school math teacher, Frank Mantinaos.

Mantinaos and principal Richard Litrenta broke down Maas’ perfect score into terms of probability.

“College Boards said the national average is six out of 1,000 of people who receive a perfect math score on the SAT,” Mantinaos said. That correlates to one-sixth of 1 percent in the country.

Litrenta said the likelihood is in the top 1,700ths of 1 percent of SAT takers nationwide.

Mantinaos and Salvatore “Sandy” Siciliano, the district’s SAT prep course instructor in math, are pretty proud of Maas’ feat.

“I was ecstatic,” Siciliano said.

Mantinaos said Maas is the first honors math student he’s ever had who has attained a perfect SAT score.

Maas’ brainpower doesn’t stop at math. He neared perfection on the other sections of his SAT as well.

He took the test last spring after completing the nine-week SAT prep course offered to advanced sophomores.

According to Siciliano, a perfect score of 800 is getting 54 out of 54 math questions right.

Maas also scored 740 in his verbal SAT, 760 in reading, a 720 in writing and 740 in English, he said, noting that in reality, Maas only missed a couple of questions in those categories.



NOT SURPRISED

He said he wasn’t surprised to hear that Maas aced the math test.

“I knew he was close, based on the testing we gave through the Princeton Review,” he said.

But Maas says he topped his own expectations.

“I was surprised,” he said with a smile.

The New Castle Area School Board presented him with the district’s Pride and Promise award this week for his achievements, which also include highest honors at the state Junior Academy of Science last year.

Mantinaos has had Maas in his math classes for three years — first in honors algebra 2, then in honors pre-calculus, and this year in advanced placement calculus class.

“He’s a super, super kid. He’s a meek, humble person,” the instructor said. “He’s the smartest guy in the room. He works extremely hard and he is definitely advanced. He’s the type of kid that he’d be the last one out the door and always look at me every day and say, ‘Have a nice day.’” “He seeks out knowledge,” Mantinaos said. “He’s very, very gifted. He definitely is one of the better students I’ve had in a long time.”

He says Maas can think in three dimensions, which was exemplified in his Junior Academy of Science project demonstrating 3-D imaging.

Mantinaos likes to think his classes pose some challenge to Maas, and Maas, in turn challenges his teachers.

Siciliano gave Maas additional work in “killer” math problems that were not given to other students in class.

“He asked for it and he did it,” he said. “That’s the type of kid he is.”

“What we’re doing in advanced placement calculus is new to him,” Mantinaos said. “I can give him some very advanced things and he would have the ability to think it through. Advanced placement allows us the opportunity to do that.”

Mantinaos credited Maas’ parents, John and Brenda, for his upbringing. Maas is the oldest of three children. His sister, Cassandra, is 15, and his brother, Michael, is 11.

“He’s always a happy person,” Mantinaos said.



PREP PROGRAM CREDITED

He credited the district’s nine-week SAT prep program, offered to advanced sophomores, for boosting Maas’ testing power. The course includes timed practice exams to prepare students for the pressure, Siciliano said.

Siciliano teaches the math portion of that class, and reading and writing are taught by Stella Magusiak.

They were trained by Princeton Review, which offers the course renowned for increasing testing scores on SATs.

The program is free at New Castle and is paid for with Title I funds. Princeton Review helps to increase student SAT scores by 100 to 200 per student, Siciliano said. “That’s how powerful this class is, and John (Maas) had the skill to get to that level.”

Siciliano learned of Maas’ SAT results through an email from Maas.

Maas, who attended the school board meeting with his parents and his siblings, was introduced by Litrenta.

 “I have given John several awards for student of the month,” Litrenta said. “He has a history of accomplishments, and we expect to hear a lot about him in the future.”

 Last spring, Maas won top honors in the regional and state-level Junior Academy of Science at Slippery Rock University and Penn State University.

He earned a perfect score on the state level, along with special recognition, which included a $20,000 Penn State University engineering scholarship if he so chooses.

On the regional level he won a $12,000 scholarship specific to Slippery Rock University for the best 11th grade project. Plus, he won the director and innovation awards.

He explained that his science project, “Bridging the Dimensional Gap,” involved rendering a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional space allowed by the computer. Certain languages on the computer can only render in two-dimensional use in pixels, and don’t have the required math to render in 3-D, he explained.

Maas aspires to attend Carnegie Mellon University and major in computer electrical engineering.

Mantinaos expects that when Maas graduates from high school he already will have earned 15 college credits.

Before graduation, Maas hopes to compete again in the science academy.

“I’ll have to come up with another project,” he said.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)