Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
Thirteen-year-old Xaria Morrison, a grade eight student of the Mount Alvernia High School in Montego Bay, left the parish of St James in awe after she struck a grade two in CAPE Mathematics Unit One this year.
But this is not new for Xaria, who tested the academic waters last year and scored resounding success when she landed a grade two in CSEC mathematics, no mean feat for someone who has not gone the full gamut of five years in high school.
"Mathematics is my favourite subject, and I like doing the problems. It is really enjoyable," said the 13-year-old.
Xaria is the first child of the husband-and-wife pair of computer engineer O'Neil Morrison and medical doctor Celeste Maycock, who formerly resided in Kingston but relocated to Montego Bay just over two years ago.
She had an overall average of 95 in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) two years ago, while at Mona Preparatory School, from where she gained a place at the Immaculate Conception High School. She was later transferred to Mt Alvernia High.
For the burgeoning mathematics dynamo, it is the subject she loves the most and enjoys working the problems.
"I have always been good at mathematics, but I must thank Miss Singh at Mona Preparatory, who was instrumental in me getting better at mathematics and other subjects as well," she said.
O'Neil, observing his daughter's potential for greatness and he himself, having a distinguished history in mathematics, decided he would test his daughter with the daunting CXC mathematics.
"I decided to teach her, but it was very informal. So at times, I taught her in the car because her mother was not totally in line with it, citing that she needed to do her regular schoolwork," Morrison explained.
For Xaria, the additional work came as no burden as she was really doing what she enjoyed. So the exam came, she did it, and the rest is history.
Bolstered by that initial success and ready for another challenge, the Morrisons (father and daughter) set their sights on CAPE mathematics Unit One.
"Daddy took a different approach. After school, I would do some questions. If I woke up in the night, I would practise another few just to ensure that I was keeping up. And just any little time would be used to do a few problems. It was not heavily structured or anything like that," Xaria said.
So it was no additional contact time in the classroom with a teacher, but a father who understood and grasped the concepts and a daughter with an equal love and aptitude for mathematics.
And, despite the concentration on mathematics, Xaria is your average teenager who enjoys watching television, reading storybooks, and playing computer games.
What's in the future for Xaria, who starts grade nine in a few weeks?
"I may do the CAPE Unit Two Mathematics in grade nine. It is not a certainty. However, I would like to be a doctor because I love to help people. I remember once when I was at Mona Prep that a boy fell and burst his head and went to see the nurse. I imagined that I was the one tending to him. I am not afraid of blood, so it is just the right fit."