Grade 9 student tackles math 536. James Lyng High
School teacher coaches exceptional teenager in a class of his own
Reviewing his practice test on vectors, functions and absolute values,
Wilson Mei cringed at the realization that he'd just lost a point for an
"It's a mistake," the Grade 9 student admitted to teacher Anne Quesnel,
during a review session for the Mathematics 536 examination.
"On the day of the exam, be careful," replied Quesnel, a math teacher
at James Lyng High School in St. Henri. "You'll lose one mark for
At 14, Wilson isn't just the youngest student at James Lyng taking the
enriched Grade 11 math exam today - he's the only one. With no Math 536
class available at the school, Quesnel has been tutoring Wilson on her own
"We can't just let him be," she said. "We have to do everything we can
to make him like coming to school."
Tall, with spiky hair, Wilson appears years older than the Grade 7
students who'll be writing their math exams in the same room today. In
fact, he should be only a year ahead of them.
"He aced all the exams at the beginning; everything was so simple, so
easy for him," said Quesnel, explaining the school's decision to have
Wilson skip Grade 8.
The teen is an unlikely star at the working-class high school; James
Lyng usually receives accolades for its basketball team, not its math
When he was in Grade 7 last year, Wilson took Quesnel's advanced Math
436 class with Grade 10 students. Although he struggled at first, Wilson
ended up helping out his classmates - he went from a 76 in his first term
to a 94 on the provincial exam.
"I didn't believe myself (that) I could do it," he recalled.
"You were fine," Quesnel said. "You just panic a bit. It just proves
you don't quit. You stick to your guns."
Wilson, whose father is a mathematics professor at Concordia
University, displayed grit while participating in a national math exam
this year. He elected to take the Grade 11 test - not the level for
students his age.
"If the questions are easy, it's kind of boring," he said. "I don't
care if I do good, I just like the challenge."
He got a challenge learning Math 536 without a class. For two years,
Lyng hasn't offered the course formally, due to a lack of demand at the
school of 240.
Instead, Wilson learns from Quesnel in an empty classroom and studies
He could have gone to another school, but Wilson said he likes Lyng,
which is near his home.
However, today's exam is probably the last time he'll do math at Lyng.
The school doesn't offer the enriched science classes that Wilson needs to
take in the fall.
To Quesnel's chagrin, her student, who moved to Montreal from Edmonton
in Grade 7, will probably have to switch schools.
"He's a wonderful kid, he's an asset for the classroom," Quesnel
said."We're going to miss you, Wilson, if you go."