Math Whiz Kid

Mar 232008
Authors: Katy Hallock

Freshman engineering major Tom Vincent is trying to do well in his Calculus 2 class, but he gets distracted every time he gets done with a test and finds out that Carsten Peterson did better. It’s not that Peterson is better at math than Vincent — it’s that he is 13.

“If I knew that he got a better grade than me, I would probably cry and start watching Nickelodeon more to see if I could do better on the next test,” Vincent said.

Peterson’s mother drives him to class four times a week to attend the math class that would be out of most 13-year-olds’ reach.

And he is passing with flying colors.

The eighth-grader insisted on attending the class at CSU, even though Ridgeview Classical Schools, where he studies everyday classes offers the same course, because he likes the higher stress level of a college course.

“I really enjoy the class; it is run well and at a good pace,” Peterson said.

On top of his core curriculum classes and Calculus 2 at a college level, Peterson attends a full day of school with high school biology and third-year high school Latin. He enjoys languages and studies Japanese outside of class for fun.

Other students in the class compete to get a better grade than Peterson.

“Last semester, Calculus 1 was awkward at first, but it got better,” he said. “One of the kids in my class last semester told me I was here to throw off the curve.”

Peterson is immersed in the college setting much earlier than most, but he thrives even with the older students around.

“Carsten is mature for his age, and all of the students treat him well,” said Laura Hester, Peterson’s mother. After completing Algebra 2 and pre-calculus in the seventh grade, Peterson decided to enroll in a college course because he was intrigued by the challenge.

“At first I was concerned, I thought it would be too much,” Hester said, “but he is doing well and as long as it keeps him interested and challenged, it’s fine.”

Eric Nelson, Peterson’s teacher, does not find anything different about Peterson than any of his other students.

“He is very studious,” Nelson said. “He always shows up to class and is doing very well.”

Peterson’s dad, Chris Peterson, is a mathematics professor at CSU and was very supportive when his son decided to take a course at this level. The younger Peterson plans on continuing his math courses at the college level in the future. After high school he hopes to attend a prestigious college and work with math and science research in some capacity.

“By the time he graduates high school, he’ll have a bachelor’s in mathematics,” Hester joked.

Staff writer Katy Hallock can be reached at

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