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Paducah homeschooler places second in national math contest

BY KATHLEEN FOXkfox@paducahsun.com

A Paducah home school student found the equation for success as he placed second in a national mathematics competition.

Layton Estes, 14, of Paducah reached the final two in the National Number Knockout (N2K) on March 28 in Orlando, Fla. He was selected as one of 32 finalists nationally, and one of two in Kentucky, out of more than 100 contenders to compete for the $10,000 prize.

Applicants submitted a 90-second scouting video demonstration of skills through YouTube. Patch Counselor Eve Silverstein recommended Estes based on his participation on a home school science bowl team and his love of mathematics.

He advanced through the rounds of 32, 16 and eight before reaching the final four over a 10-hour day. The preliminary rounds were held in a large room, and participants could use a pencil and paper. In the final round, each participant was brought in individually, given the same numbers and had to complete equations by memory. The final four had to undergo two additional equations before Aaron Slack, 13, of Alabama was named the winner.

"It was amazing to meet so many people from across the country that have my same interest in math," he said. "I didn't go in focused on winning, I just wanted to have fun and anything else would be a bonus."

The National Number Knockout, a competition for students 14 and under, is played with a board of numbers from one to 36 and three dice. After the dice are rolled, those three numbers are used to develop an equation with the object of the game to eliminate numbers from the game board. Each round is played in a series of 60-second rounds.

Estes has always enjoyed mathematics, counting and numbers. He said the game format, which focuses on a combination of speed and accuracy, helped him to hone his skills under pressure through extensive practice time.

"For anyone who is interested I would say 'try it,'" he said. "It was a big challenge but also fun because of the game format."

Estes received the most valuable player award for demonstrating high character and a quality attitude to his competitors throughout the game. Mother Kenya Estes said the life experience was more than just about winning for her son.

"He didn't walk away with the $10,000 but it showed him that character and integrity matter, and that will last him a lifetime," she said.

Estes said her son always challenged his family growing up with his keen understanding of equations and the ability to do complicated math in his head.

"The game is all about giving young people confidence in using their brain to do math," she said. "Overall, it was just a great experience and he was so honored to be selected."

He will be an official ambassador for the N2K competition to introduce other local students to the game and will attend next year's event as an adviser, she said.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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