Staff Contact:

Andrea J. Burney, APR

Director of  Public Relations

Pre-Teen Takes College Math Course


Steven Black in Danville Community College class.

DANVILLE, VA, October 25, 2010 – Are you smarter than a seventh grader? That’s the question some Danville Community College students may be asking themselves since 12-year old Steven Black joined them in the classroom. Steven, a seventh grade student at Danville’s Sacred Heart School, is enrolled in the four credit math course - Precalculus with Trigonometry.

Steven, who is uniquely gifted in mathematics, has taken all of the required courses he needs for junior and senior high school math and is now enrolled in the more advanced DCC class. Steven, smiling takes all of the attention in stride, and says he prefers swimming, playing soccer or playing video games.

The son of David and Karen Black of Danville, Steven showed remarkable abilities in math practically from the day he was born says his mother.
“I have two very bright kids, but Steven, ever since he could talk, already knew math and especially math concepts,? Karen remembers. “He could understand math concepts as early as age 3. He wouldn’t have to think about it, he just did it.?

Karen explains that Steven would start counting by threes and before you knew it, he was well into the thousands with his counting.
“I knew in preschool I was better at counting because then most of the kids could only count to 20,? Steven says.

Sacred Heart School Principal Kim Meadows says they began tracking him in math as early as first grade when he was on a third grade math level.

“He just started accelerating. This is my one true gifted experience and we wanted to be sure the choices were right for him,? Meadows adds.

By the second grade, Steven was in fourth grade math. In the third grade, Meadows said he took the Johns Hopkins School and College Ability Test and scored in the 99th percentile in math, and the 83rd percentile in English. This also was remarkable since he was being tested with students who were two years older. Next he took the Orleans Hanna Algebra Prognosis Test and scored 100 percent.

“At that point a decision had to be made to move him into higher math levels,? Meadows says explaining that they were very careful in planning his future course of study. By the fourth grade he started Advanced Algebra I with the school’s eighth graders. Sacred Heart is accredited by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and their math instructor is secondary certified.

Deborah Kitzmiller, who taught Steven Advanced Algebra I, Advanced Geometry, and Advanced Algebra II/Trigonometry at Sacred Heart, says “Over the last three years I have worked with him, I have been amazed at his mathematical ability. It is like he looks at it and learns it. While teachers teach a class, Steven only has to be guided. In my 37 years of teaching all levels of math I have seen really good math students, some advanced math students, but Steven is the only really gifted math student I have ever encountered.?

Meadows contacted the State Department of Education certification experts to recommend a course of study for Steven to keep him on an advanced track and yet receive the credits he needed for graduation and maintain his high school grade point average. At the end of the sixth grade, Meadows then contacted Averett University, where Dr. Steve Ausband , Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Dr. Don Ethington, Professor and Mathematics Department Chair , developed a plan for him to take post secondary math courses.

“He needed a pre-calculus course next, and we discussed online options, but decided he would take the course at DCC over the next year,? Meadows continues. “He is taking Precalculus with Trigonometry now and next semester (January 2011) he will take Applied Calculus I.?

Meadows says the plan is for Steven to eventually take Calculus I and Calculus II at Averett in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012.

“Steven is a well rounded, well adjusted boy, and it shows that the choices made are the right ones,? Meadows says. “He is very well liked by his peers and well respected by his teachers.?

Steven’s third grade teacher Kira Kania says, “What makes Steven so unique is his ability to grasp mathematical concepts in large chunks through the use of such strategies as independent contracts and curriculum compacting. For example, an average student will need to learn what a decimal is, how it is used, what it means, how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide using decimals in several different lessons or over a course of time. Steven was able to understand all of the concepts surrounding a decimal in one 20-minute lesson. That ability is what let me know that Steven wasn’t just a high achiever, but rather a uniquely gifted student.?

His DCC professor, Dr. Yiheng Wang, says Steven is excelling in college class also.

“He is by far one of my top students in class,? Wang says. “The other (college) students in class don’t treat him any differently and welcome his participation.?

Wang adds the class is challenging and by mid-semester some students had already withdrawn.

“We have 15 students in the class now,? Wang continues. “It is a math class and for a lot of people math can be difficult. But Steven is very definitely excelling in the class. I have been very impressed.?

If you ask Steven how he feels about all of this attention, he will tell you he is enjoying DCC and doesn’t feel any different. He is driven to his class at DCC on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then heads back to his school. He adds he hasn’t decided on a future consider but says he is leaning toward an engineering career.

“I would like to do something in engineering, maybe design airplanes,? Steven says.

Karen, who is a civil engineer with the City of Danville, and husband David, a physical education teacher at Park Avenue Elementary School, says the couple has tried to keep things “normal? for Steven. While he is above average in all of his subjects, for the time being, they do not want to see him become a full-time college student.

How did they prepare him at home? Karen says they took advantage of special math workshops, online self-paced math programs, and regularly used the “Think Tank? book series which focuses on critical thinking skills.

“I would not want him pushed ahead in all subject areas because social growth is important too,? Karen explains. “I think he should be challenged, but at the same time I don’t think it should be so hard for him. I want him to just be a kid.?

By his broad smile, Steven seems to agree.


Copyright © 2010  by Danville Community College

1008 South Main St., Danville, VA 24541  |  434.797.2222  |  TTY: 434.797.8542  |  FAX: 434.797.8514  |  Toll-Free: 1.800.560.4291
 Danville Community College promotes and maintains educational and employment opportunities without regard to race, color, sex, ethnicity, religion, gender, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), disability, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Danville Community College prohibits sexual harassment including sexual violence..