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Perfect score: CLC student named national champion in prestigious math competition

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Sep 08, 2020

Famed mathematician and physician Albert Einstein said, “once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” Lindenhurst resident and recent CLC graduate Seth Thomason has taken these words not only to heart, but to action. He was named national champion in the 2019-2020 American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges Student Math League competition (AMATYC SML).

Seth Thomason

In a phenomenal performance, Thomason achieved a perfect score of 80/80 in the rigorous competition, beating out thousands of community college students representing over 165 colleges from across the country. As national champion, Thomason also received a $3,000 scholarship. As the main point contributor, Thomason also led the way for CLC’s AMATYC SML team to finish third in the country out of 144 colleges — the best national finish ever for a CLC team.

“I'm really happy about winning the national competition, it was completely unexpected!” said Thomason. “I went to a few math competitions in high school, and I would almost always make a few mistakes on the problems. I was definitely looking over my work a lot more intensely during the actual competition, but I still didn't expect to be so fortunate with my mistakes!”

Mathematical talent has been nearly second nature to Seth since childhood when at the age of two, he was already reading large numbers. Throughout his academic years, math steadily became his favorite subject. Honing his math acumen through participation on several math teams and in competitions throughout his years at Lakes Community High School, Thomason continued his education at CLC starting in 2018, and recently received his associate degree in computer science.

“It is my belief that Seth is one of the best community college math students in the country,” said Jeff Mudrock, CLC mathematics instructor. “Moreover, I think this has to go down as one of the best academic accomplishments of a CLC student in the college’s history”

Over the last 13 years, an estimated 156,000 community college students have participated in this prestigious competition. Of all these students, only two have recorded a perfect score in the competition; one of them is Thomason.

Throughout his teaching career, Mudrock has never seen a student like Thomason: “Seth combines incredible talent along with extraordinary passion for mathematics. He has a deep desire to keep learning and improving his problem-solving skills. Seth sees mathematics for the abundantly beautiful art that it is, and he has an unquenchable thirst for developing his mathematical creativity and maturity. I think seeing Seth’s passion and performance on the AMATYC SML has inspired other students to pursue the creative art of mathematics.”

Thomason is quick to offer advice to aspiring mathematicians: “The only way to get good at math is to take it slowly, and practice every concept you learn until you get used to it before moving on to the next one. It is also important to try new and creative methods of solving math problems, even if you do not think they'll work. Understanding why something doesn't work still helps you improve.”

Having recently completed an independent learning course in mathematics, Thomason has decided his future lies in furthering his education in mathematics. Currently accepted to Southern Illinois University, Thomason is still exploring options, but no doubt will continue to master his favorite subject, inspiring future mathematicians along the way.

About College of Lake County:

The College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.