by JENNIFER FRAKES | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

Math Whiz!

For 11-year-old Ben Lou, competing in the World Math Team Championship (WMTC) in Beijing was a dream come true for many reasons, not the least of which was the honor of competing against some of the world’s most elite young mathematicians. WMTC consists of students from 16 countries who compete in three levels based on the age of the competitors: junior, intermediate, and advanced. Within these levels, there are three rounds of competition, the team round, the relay round, and the individual round. “I won a gold medal for the individual round of the junior level. This was the only gold for the U.S. Junior Team,” stated Ben, who solves even the most complex math problems in his head.

“I won a gold medal for the individual round of the junior level. This was the only gold for the U.S. Junior Team.” – Ben

student02This feat in and of itself is remarkable – however, there is another part to Ben’s victory story. Ben has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a debilitating disease that leaves him so weak that he must rely on others for all aspects of his daily life. “It is a tough disease to handle, although it is harder on my parents than it is on me. We have to be really careful of sickness since those with SMA can get pneumonia very easily. We are also on the lookout for ways to add energy to my body, while making sure not to use unnecessary energy,” explained Ben. While he was in Beijing, Ben received the Blooming Life Award from the WMTC committee. During the awards ceremony, Ben spoke on behalf of children with SMA, advocating for the equal right to education. He also thanked all those who helped make the trip possible and all the individuals who assisted him during his stay.

The location of the 2014 WMTC was also incredibly meaningful and exciting for Ben, as he has many relatives that live in Beijing. “It was awesome seeing my relatives again, visiting the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, and staying at the Shangri-La Hotel,” shared Ben.

Back home in Poway, Ben enjoys attending choir at Black Mountain Middle School and is a fan of watching tennis and playing board games. “Roger Federer is my favorite tennis player. He is calm and courageous and never gives up,” related Ben. And those same words could be used to describe this brave young man who has accomplished so much and overcome great obstacles to fulfill his dreams.


Name: Benjamin Lou (11)
School: Poway Unified School District Alternative Program and Black Mountain Middle School
Grade: 6
Parents: HuiHua (Jenny) Huang and Xiangdong Lou
Siblings: Lucy Lan Lou (15)
Favorite Place in 92064: Creek Road around my house