The moderator did not get to finish the question --
"What is the probability of getting a 7 or an 11 on the roll of a pair of dice?" -- before Timothy Kokesh of Bartlesville, Okla., pushed his buzzer and answered correctly: two-ninths.
Andrew Kirmse, a student at Longfellow Intermediate School in Vienna, earlier had answered this one -- "What is the product, 2 to the third degree times 3 squared, divided by 6 squared?" -- a split second after it was asked. (The answer is 2.)
The two eighth-graders were among 216 "mathletes" from around the country who participated in the final round of Mathcounts yesterday, a national math contest for seventh- and eighth-graders who compete as individuals and on four-member state teams.
The California team placed first, and the Maryland team second, followed by North Carolina. Brian Ewald of Deerfield Beach, Fla., was the first-place winner in the individual contest.
As the California team, four rather shy boys, later sat in a makeshift press room drawing geometrical designs and going over some of the questions they had been asked, Brian said he was "pretty excited" about his victory and has been interested in math since first grade.
The contest at the Sheraton Washington was sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Society of Professional Engineers and CNA Insurance Companies.
The second-place team from Maryland consisted of Sarah Manchester of Silver Spring and Joshua Fischman of Cabin John, who attend Takoma Park Intermediate School, and Jahan Sagafi-nejad and Christopher J. Pittenger, both of Friends School in Baltimore.
Christopher said he may have inherited his propensity for math from his mathematician father and probably will seek a career in science or physics. But Sarah, who said she and Joshua were encouraged to enter the contest by their math teacher, is planning a career in law or animal training.
The District of Columbia team members, all students from Jefferson Junior High School who sported white satin jackets with their names and "Washington D.C. Math Team" embroidered on them, said they spent most of the school year preparing for the contest.
Aaron Schwartz, student government president at Jefferson, said the team had practiced together every lunch hour and at least 1 1/2 hours after school for months. Also on the team were Sakinah Carter, La Shaun Williams and Yan Ling Huang.
Asked if they were nervous during the contest, the final word of the D.C. team was appropriately mathematical:
"Let's average this."