Redondo 11-year-old tops College Board AP calculus 

Stephen Huffaker on his way to take the College Board AP calculus test in May. Photo courtesy Stephanie Huffaker

by Garth Meyer

If he wanted to, Redondo Beach sixth-grader Stephen Huffaker could never spend another minute in a math class, and graduate from high school with credits to spare. 

It was true last year too at Lincoln Elementary School, when he scored a 5 on the state AP College Board calculus test.

“In fourth grade, I really liked trigonometry,” he said. “I thought trigonometric identities were cool.”

Such as?

“Sine squared of theta and cosine squared of theta always equals one.”

Huffaker did it all through “Math Academy,” a program in the Pasadena Unified School District.

“I live in Redondo Beach, I’m not moving my entire family to Pasadena for this,” said Stephanie Huffaker, Stephen’s mother, when she first looked into the program. 

Then they told her they were about to launch an online version.

“Sign me the hell up,” she said. 

Stephen enlisted in the academy at the start of fourth grade, going from pre-algebra to AP Calculus by the end of fifth. 

“They gave him seven years of math credits,” said Stephanie, a clinical nurse specialist at Harbor UCLA. 

“Mom, the return on investment is incredible,” Stephen said. 

During the pandemic, he took various advanced math tests online, including for an application to Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. He qualified, which got him into the Olga Radkow Endowed Math Circle at UCLA, which he went to in the summer of 2021, and now joins for the academic year Sunday afternoons.

Johns Hopkins offered classes too but they are “too expensive,” said Stephanie.

This fall, Stephen switched to Ambassador Christian School in Torrance for sixth grade, where instead of going to math with his classmates, he has a study hall for that period, during which he continues online Math Academy.

Stephen’s father is a software engineer at Raytheon. His mother was strong in math too.

“It was one of my best subjects, until calculus,” Stephanie said. “For Stephen, in pre-algebra, he would sit in my lap. Within six months, he had completely eclipsed my abilities.”

The reason the path began is because the boy was insistent.

“He wouldn’t stop talking to me about math, talking about ‘what is the biggest number?’ Infinity is a concept, he was obsessed with infinity,” Stephanie said. “I knew I had to find resources for him.”

‘People have said, ‘he could take junior college classes.’ No, he’s already done it,” she said.

Stephen could have gone to full college now, but instead will stay at Ambassador through high school. 

“I think the social (part) is important,” Stephanie said.

Q & A

So what is it like taking the AP College Board calculus test when you are 11?

“It was kind of easy, or middle. It wasn’t that hard, but it wasn’t easy,” Stephen said.

For other subjects in school, he says he kind of likes all of them, but a favorite besides math would be science. 

Least favorite?

“Maybe P.E.,” Stephen said. “You have to change really fast so you’re not late. I’m not the biggest fan of exercise.”

What would he like to do when he grows up?

He named nuclear physicist and aerospace engineer, but “right now, I don’t know.”

He doesn’t play sports anymore, though he said perhaps he will again. 

“Definitely not volleyball,”  he said.

Stephen has a brother who is nine and a five year-old sister. He went to Lincoln Elementary since kindergarten, where he did fifth-grade math last year still with his classmates, though for part of the time he was allowed to be a helper for third grade math. 

He liked that better. 

“(The regular class-level math) because it’s so easy, it gets boring fast.” ER 

 

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