A real math whiz
11-year-old boy acing accelerated eighth-grade class

HOSCHTON - Rocco Amorosso's first period class at Osborne Middle School is Accelerated Math I.

Nothing out of the ordinary about that. Sure, at 4-foot-9, Rocco's shorter than his classmates. But that's because he's an 11-year-old sixth-grader taking an eighth-grade math course that is basically an accelerated ninth-grade class.

So maybe it's extraordinary after all.

"The concepts are so abstract," veteran math teacher Jan Pruitt said of the class, which integrates algebra and geometry. "I've never seen a child this young that can do it so easily."

Rocco said he's always enjoyed math.

"It's just like the numbers are so infinite," he said. "It makes you want to dive in and figure them all out."

It's not that math is easy, he said. But it doesn't take a lot of repetition for Rocco to understand the concept.

"I still do homework for extra practice," he said.

Rocco, named after his Italian grandfather, is a typical kid with an extremely high aptitude for math. He's making an 'A' in the course, but he has to study and do his homework. He doesn't really know what he wants to be when he grows up or even what he wants to study in college. He plays video games - "Madden NFL," "NCAA Basketball," "Burnout," "Rock Band." He loves playing sports like basketball and soccer, but especially football. ("I'm working on my jukes so I can be a great running back," he said.)

Rocco started school when the Amorosso family lived in Ohio. His mother, Tammy, decided to home-school him because he didn't understand why he was going to school and not learning anything.

When Tammy, her husband, John, and their children moved to Hamilton Mill, Rocco enrolled at Duncan Creek Elementary. He was doing so well there, the school moved him from second to third grade.

Last summer, Tammy Amorosso contacted Osborne Middle to see if the school could provide an extra challenge for Rocco in math.

"He was thirsty for the next thing, just like a sponge, " she said.

Rocco took the post-tests for accelerated sixth- and seventh-grade math. He aced them both. Finally, the results of a pretest for the accelerated eighth-grade course indicated which class was right for Rocco. He got one of the best scores, but the results showed there was room for him to learn.

His mother is complimentary of the school's willingness to challenge him.

"To come here was a wonderful, wonderful blessing," she said.

Next year, Rocco will take math courses at the neighboring Mill Creek High. If he stays on this track, he'll be taking college-level math courses before he graduates from high school.

Osborne Middle principal John Campbell said he's met a lot of bright students, but every now and then someone - like Rocco - catches his attention.

"In my career, I find these kind of students are rare," he said. "I'm proud of the fact we could accelerate him. ... I've always felt this is something we should be doing for students with abilities that allow them to accelerate."