We are proud to announce that Christopher O’Brian, ‘13, recently scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT test. Chris is one of only 0.7% of high school students to achieve this score.
In the competitive landscape facing high school students as they prepare for colleges, many are wondering how Chris was able to accomplish achieving this perfect math score and the secret to his preparation. Chris humbly states he was pleased to find out his results. “I just went in and did my best,” he explains. It’s interesting to note that Chris never attended any SAT prep or Kumon classes, or indeed any enrichment sessions. Instead, he attributes his success to the Montessori education he experienced here during his toddler to 8th grade years, followed by high school at a small independent boarding and day school.
“I really think that my unique education at a Montessori school through eighth grade made all the difference. Math was awesome as I didn’t just memorize facts, but there were these really cool materials that we used in Lower Elementary that helped me understand abstract concepts. Then, math just became fun. I didn’t realize it then, but the way math was taught at PMonts was helping me understand the concepts of subsequent math lessons at much deeper level.”
The concrete materials used for teaching math are perhaps the best-known elements of Maria Montessori’s work. The materials are simple and elegantly designed, and hold a fascination for most children and adults alike. Students learn by proceeding through basic concepts and skills which prepare them for the advanced concepts of secondary mathematics. Each lesson is represented with increasing levels of abstraction, a far different approach than rote memorization.
Chris also notes that he is not an avid test-taker. “My first standardized test was in 8th grade – although we took progress tests in each subject in Middle School.”
It’s considered counterintuitive that a lack of test-taking actually fosters stronger test scores. Instead of focusing on standardized tests, Montessori students are consistently assessed by their teachers, and encouraged to perform at their academic best, whatever that may be for each individual. The focus is on each child mastering the concepts taught in each subject, regardless of where that places them on a national scale. This allows for a depth of learning that goes beyond the ratings, percentiles and grades, and allows for each child to reach their fullest potential.
As the Director of College Counseling at Solebury, Timothy Gallen praised Chris’ work ethic and academic achievements by saying, “We love your reason for your unbelievable course load of 6 Honors/AP classes and what might be the highest GPA that Solebury has ever seen: that you want to challenge yourself to see what you can handle and set the foundation to explore intellectually.”
Chris has had an active summer employed at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL). As he describes it: “I’ve been assisting with a safety project that involved diagramming and identifying all the pressure systems on the site. Part of this entailed assisting a technician in refilling the liquid nitrogen supply on a superconducting magnet. I’ve also been working on a project involving the installation of port covers on systems contaminated with radioactive fuel left over from the old fusion reactor decommissioned in the 90s. Of course, I, personally, am not dealing with any dangerous substances but I am writing the procedure for the actual operation. It’s pretty cool.”
We are so proud of Chris’ accomplishments and we are honored to witness the confident and competent young adult he is becoming. We wish him all the best in his senior year at Solebury.