Wolmer’s Math Whiz- First former gets grade I, straight-A profile in CSEC Math
From the looks of it, Clintoni Laign is your typical first-former.
When this unassuming 12-year-old turned up at The Gleaner, it was difficult to tell that he had just secured a grade one in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) mathematics examination, with a straight-A profile.
And if that was not impressive enough, when the Wolmer's Boys' School student opened his mouth to speak, it was clear that he was one with wisdom beyond his years.
His love affair with math did not come naturally. In fact, he readily confesses that he struggled with the subject.
"I didn't really like mathematics. I just started loving it in grade six, and the reason I started loving math is because I have seen persons cry because they didn't get to go to the school that they desired, and I said that cannot be me. I was not getting good grades in math at all, so I took it upon myself that I had to start practising math at least every day, and my grades improved. I started to focus more in class and I got 97 per cent in math at the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT)," he explained.
Having secured a place at the school of his choice, Clintoni was content with going through the motions of the average high-school student, that is, until his father threw him a challenge of no mean order.
"I was on my way to school one day with my father and he said to me, 'Would you like to try CSEC mathematics?' And I said, 'No, Daddy, no! That's too hard for me. I can't manage to do that,' and he said I should at least give it a try," Clintoni told The Gleaner.
"My mother, as you know, mothers have that soft spot for their sons, said to my father: 'No, what are you doing? He just came out of GSAT. How can you make him do CSEC mathematics. Are you crazy?'. But my father said, 'Let him try it', and we got an excellent teacher by the name of Vernon Paul Thompson ... and so I started the classes, even though I was a little reluctant," he said.
"I just felt like I was going to go to the classes, and when the exams come, I just write my name on the paper and come out. That's how I felt."
That feeling, however, did not last long. After a rocky start in the CSEC classes, where he was pretending to do homework and padding pages to make it seem like he was doing a lot of work, Clintoni began to take his lessons more seriously after his teacher encouraged him.
"Mr Thompson talked to me and said, 'Look in the class. You sit among 15 and 16-year-olds', and there was even a lady who seemed to be over 30 years old in my class, and he said to me, 'You are doing better than some of them, so you know you can do it. I know you can do it; you have it in you'. And he encouraged me; my parents, grandparents, family, and friends encouraged me, and I said, 'I am going to do this'," he told The Gleaner.
When he turned up at the exam centre to sit the exam, nerves would have got the better of him, but Clintoni resolved: "I am going to go into that exam, apply the knowledge I've learnt, and come out on top. And I did!"
For Clintoni, mathematics is now a passion. So passionate is he about the subject that he challenges his teacher at Wolmer's when he thinks a topic can be taught better. He does not hesitate to assist his classmates grasp difficult concepts in the subject.
"You have to believe in yourself ... you also have to focus. Focus is the key. You have to be focused in everything you do; and whatever you do, do it well," he said.