Freshman ‘Genius’: A glimpse into Liam’s passion for math

When Liam Tucker was a child, his mom read the book “How to Raise a Brighter Child.” Many around him, including his sister, senior Nora Tucker, can attest that whatever their mom learned from the book seemed to work; Nora describes Liam as “a genius.”

Liam Tucker is only a freshman, and though his peers are enrolled in Algebra I or Geometry, he’s taking AP Calculus BC. The ability for such a young student to handle a course at this level is unseen by most teachers, yet Tucker excels in higher-level math despite his age.


Growing Up 

When Tucker was in kindergarten at Rondout Elementary School, the math he was taught was too simple for him.

“In kindergarten, people were learning about shapes, but I found that easy, so I moved up to second-grade math, and then I moved up [further in math] in first grade also. I was going up at the normal pace, but I was way ahead of the other kids in my grade,” explained Tucker.

By the end of third grade, he was being taught fifth-grade level math because he “didn’t see a difference between them. You’re pretty much learning the same thing over and over.”

As a child, Tucker was always interested in math. According to Nora, he would memorize math facts and share different sports statistics he had individually researched with his family. At Rondout, when he was given the opportunity to write books, “all the books he wrote were about math and math puns. They were all about this math guy that gets stuck on this island and has to use math to find his way off,” stated Nora. “So even when he was in other classes, math was the only thing on his mind.”

Freshman PJ Liphardt, Tucker’s close friend since elementary school, described what it was like to be in class with him: “When we were in fifth grade — sometime around then — Liam was well beyond us in math and this was before we learned how to square root and all that other stuff. So we would be like, ‘Oh Liam, what’s the square root of 738, and he could’ve just said some random [number], and we would just be like, ‘wow, that’s amazing!’ because we didn’t know any better…a lot of the time, [the answers] were right.”

Since Tucker was ahead of all the other kids in his grade, he would learn one-on-one throughout his elementary and middle school years with a teacher who would give him individual assignments and worksheets. In the sixth grade, he was taught geometry, the highest level of math offered at Rondout.

After the completion of the class, he began attending math courses at LHS, starting in seventh grade with Algebra II. Every morning, before Rondout’s 8:20 a.m. start time, Tucker was driven by his mother to the high school. In eighth grade, he progressed further and began taking precalculus at LHS.


LHS Math Career 

Upon entering high school as a freshman, Tucker enrolled in AP Calculus BC, the highest level of math offered at the school. Tucker said the class covers the hardest math he has ever done, but it doesn’t pose as too big of a challenge.

“He usually understands things just fine and if he has questions, he asks. He’s not hesitant to work with the other students in class — they are almost all seniors. He gets along well with everybody, he understands, jumps right in and is not hesitant at all. [He is] pretty confident [and] successful,” said Mrs. Amanda Warfield, Tucker’s calculus teacher. Tucker is the first freshman she has had in this specific course.

This year, Tucker was also a member on the school’s math team, which ended their season with second place in State. Competitions are broken up by grade, so as a freshman, Tucker mostly solved algebraic problems, his favorite math to do. Mr. Rick Brenner, a math teacher at LHS and coach of the team, called him “well above average” and “a valuable asset on the math team.” Throughout the whole season and all of its competitions, out of 40 detailed questions, Tucker only missed four.

“He’s probably the smartest freshman I’ve ever had on the math team,” stated Mr. Brenner.

One of the things Tucker loves most about math is that there is one solution to every problem.

“I like [that math] is not really subjective because in English, when reading a poem…the whole idea is there are multiple things you could infer in English, there are multiple ideas,” explained Tucker. “In math, there is one answer, and I find it just easier.”

Though he doesn’t know specifically what classes he will be taking for his additional three years at LHS, he said his options include AP Statistics, AP Computer Science and Calculus III, an online math class provided by the University of Illinois.

Nora said that their family jokes that since Tucker will be attending classes at LHS for six years rather than the traditional four, it is taking him longer to graduate: “So even though he’s this super smart freshman, the running joke is, ‘Well, at least it’s only going to take the rest of us four years to graduate high school.’”


Beyond Math

In addition to AP Calculus BC, Tucker is in Honors Chemistry and AP Human Geography, classes that are traditionally for sophomores or juniors. On top of his advanced classes, he participates in a number of activities: varsity track, the freshman soccer team and he plays the bassoon in the school band. Despite all these activities, he doesn’t find it hard to balance everything.

“He’s one of those people who is a math person but is still good at everything,” Nora explained.

In addition, both teachers and students alike mentioned how sweet and humble Tucker is.

“He’s not cocky; [he] doesn’t let it go to his head. He’s very personable, very willing to help the other math team members. He never brags,” expressed Mr. Brenner. “Just a good guy overall.”

Liphardt echoed these sentiments, stating, “I’m almost positive he is the smartest freshman in all of LHS, 100 percent. As far as the school goes, he’s up there for sure,” expressed Liphardt. “It’s something you really wish you could be too, you wish you were as smart as he is and could whip out answers to problems. But it’s also not like he makes fun of it too, it’s not like he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m smarter than you’ or anything, which is great. He’s not a jerk, he’s very humble…He’s just something else.”