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Local teen wins regional math competition for Pellissippi State, finishes ninth in the nation

Jonah Weston on Hardin Valley Campus

Jonah Weston of Pellissippi State placed first in the Southeast in a national mathematics competition while he was a 15-year-old dual enrollment student at the college.

Math for Jonah Weston may be as “easy as pi.” 

The 16-year-old Pellissippi State Community College student finished first in the Southeast region – and ninth in the nation – in the 2021-2022 Student Mathematics League competition sponsored by the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges. 

Perhaps more impressive is that Weston, who started Pellissippi State full time this fall, was a dual enrollment student at the college when he took the two-part test last year. He graduated from Christian Academy of Knoxville Homeschool in May, the day before his 16th birthday.  

“I’m currently double majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science,” said Weston, the son of Brian and Tina Weston of Knoxville. “So far I’ve taken 30 hours at Pellissippi State, and this is my first semester as a full-time student. I’m taking Calculus III, Statics, Physics I, Macroeconomics and Engineering Computer Methods this semester.” 

Pellissippi State has a tradition of math excellence, having finished first in the Student Mathematics League competition in Tennessee every year since 2009 and having had three other students finish first in the region: Trevor Sharpe in 2011-2012, Lily Turaski in 2016-2017 and Jingxing Wang in 2019-2020, the last year the competition was held before the coronavirus pandemic. 

This is the first year, however, that Pellissippi State has finished in the top 10 teams in the nation, finishing 8th in the nation. The college’s previous best finish was 20th nationally in 2019-2020. 

“I thought the math competition was very fun because it challenged me in ways I’d never been challenged before,” Weston said. 

The competition is open to any Pellissippi State student, each of whom have one hour to answer as many of 20 questions as they can. Questions may involve precalculus algebra, trigonometry, statistics, analytics geometry and probability. 

“These are very challenging questions,” said Associate Professor Robert “Bobby” Jackson, who coordinates the annual competition for Pellissippi State. “It’s hard to answer all 20 questions in one hour. I know I can’t.” 

Weston agreed. 

“The first time I took the test, I thought it was very difficult, and I could only answer about half of the questions,” he said. “The second time, I had prepared better and was able to score much higher. I was very surprised to see that I had placed first in the Southeast.” 

Weston plans to enter the competition again this year and will do his best to represent Pellissippi State again, he said. 

“After Pellissippi State, I plan to continue my education at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and I hope to do graduate work there,” Weston noted. “I job shadowed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory this summer, and I hope to work there after I graduate.  

“I would like to thank all of my math, science and engineering professors for their support and encouragement,” he added. “I would like to thank my parents and brother, Jacob, as well.”