Friday, June 21, 2024

Maxwell goes down in history as four-time state champion

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Jonesboro High School senior Luke Maxwell is the third person in history to accomplish such an achievement of being a four-time state champion in UIL number sense.

Along with taking home a gold medal for his individual performance, his number sense team, which included Pate Foote, DeMarcus Acoff, and Braden Ashby, also went down in the history books by being the first UIL team at Jonesboro Independent School District to receive medals in their division.

The number sense competition is comprised of 80 difficult questions, which covers all high school mathematics courses and allows just 10 minutes to answer them. This includes no erasers, mark outs, calculators, or scratch paper.

“It feels great that I have accomplished such a feat, but I try not to let it get to me, I try to stay neutral,” Maxwell said. “It also gives me some great reasons to thank those who have helped me.”

Despite being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of five years old, it has not stopped Maxwell from being the very best at what he does.

Maxwell’s mother, Betsy Spitzer, expressed that once he was diagnosed, everything else fell into place for him.

“I believe his diagnosis just helped everyone around him understand him better and helped us meet his needs at a young age,” Spitzer said. “Luke needed a schedule, he needed to understand when change was coming, and he needed some things to be a certain way.”

“We never made excuses for him; he had expectations just like all other kiddos do,” she said. “Thankfully, he has always risen to a good challenge and persevered through adversity.”

When Maxwell was only in the fourth grade, his teacher Amanda Wolff mentioned to Spitzer that he was gifted in math.

His first memory of excelling in math began back in Mrs. Wolff’s class when he won a math contest. “I won the contest and got a Capri Sun for it,” Maxwell said. “That is probably when I realized I was good at math.”

“It had rules that were concrete and could be used across the board, and Luke thrived in that learning discipline because of that,” Spitzer said. “I do not think I realized the degree to which he excelled until he began UIL number sense in Jonesboro as a fifth grader.”

Maxwell said that in fifth grade he got placed in his first UIL competition.

“I won number sense and math by quite a margin, but I didn’t do as well in calculator because I wasn’t familiar with all of the buttons and how calculators worked back then.”

Spitzer explained that since his score was so much higher than the other students, the contest administrators and graders asked to verify that Maxwell was a fifth-grade student and wanted to lay their eyes on him.

“Picture a chubby Dennis the menace, so cute,” she said. “When his UIL sponsor was telling me that, it kind of resonated with me that he truly did have something special.”

Over the years, he has trained intensely to be the very best at number sense. His training consists of memorizing squares, cubes, roots, conversions, triangular numbers, and dozens of other types of concrete math numbers and formulas. It also includes taking hundreds of practice tests and using a 190-plus page manual full of math tricks and shortcuts until he mastered them all.

Spitzer’s brother, Rich Spitzer, along with a UIL coach from Salado, Dennis Cabaniss, both guided Maxwell with various problems and skills through facetime during his time in UIL.

“These two fine math minds selflessly volunteered their time to help Luke excel to a new level,” Betsy Spitzer said.

Maxwell expressed that to prepare for the state UIL competition, he had to partake in daily test taking, frequent facetime calls with his Uncle Dickie (Rich Spitzer) and his coach Dennis, as well as targeting memorization of conversions, triangular numbers, and measurements such as rods and fathoms.

“I knew that after regionals and with my hard work, I should do well, but I try to not be overconfident in myself because I know there is always more than one possible outcome,” he said. “I try to stay humble because I could either win or not win, and I want to be the same no matter what.”

Spitzer said since Maxwell is not motivated by rewards and success like the rest of us, that helping him train for number sense has been a challenge at times. “But he has, in true Luke fashion, risen to the occasion and has worked very hard to maintain his streak,” she said. “This has been something that has been incredible for me as his mom.”

“I am just thankful to see Luke get to shine; he is really an unselfish and awkwardly humble kiddo,” she said. “He knows he is good, but he knows he should not boast or brag.”

Spitzer expressed that when she tells someone about his success, he will tell her that she doesn’t need to brag. “But I do need to celebrate his success and shout from the mountain tops about how happy I am to see him mark his spot in the history books,” she said.

When Maxwell was only five years old, Spitzer was told about everything that he could not do. “When I look at my child and all he has accomplished, I am reminded that it is not what people say, but what God says about us that matters. God says my son is a champion,” she said.

Maxwell said that UIL has been important to him throughout high school, because it gave him something to do outside of the usual classes and work of the school day. He explained that he got to travel, stay in hotels, eat meals from different places, make new friends, and got to visit spots of interest such as the Bluebell Creamery in Brenham.

“UIL competitions have helped me become a part of something bigger than myself,” he said.

After graduation, Maxwell plans to attend McLennan Community College (MCC) either online or in person but has not made the decision yet. He said that he is currently undecided on whether he is going to major in mathematics or in computer science.

“I have watched God use Luke’s story to touch and inspire others, and to me, that is the greatest gift through all of this,” she said. “Yes, I’m proud of his success, his work ethic, and his humility, but I am more proud that he will thank God for his talents and success. I thank God too; what a privilege it is to be Luke’s mother and to be a part of his story.”