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“He couldn’t even read yet, but he could do math.” Roane County boy acing honors classes at UT

Not even a teenager, Lucas Hinds is beating the odds, making straight A’s in UT honors math courses
Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 10:53 AM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Not even a teenager yet, 12-year-old Lucas Hinds is finding his place at the University of Tennessee.

“Well, we noticed around two and a half, that he was adding up numbers in his head. I had to ask him because he used his fingers right,” said Tomas and Andrea Hinds. “He couldn’t even read yet but he could do math.”

From an early age, the Hinds knew their son was gifted, especially in math.

“But we didn’t know how much,” laughed Thomas.

“I think of my head as like a whiteboard like, I don’t remember what’s there right then. But, I could only fit so much stuff onto it. I can only fit so much stuff onto it until I have to erase part of it and work,” said Lucas. “That’s kind of how my brain works like I’ve just subconsciously thinking about how to do a problem. And then after I have a direction, I follow through with it by putting all my mind and soul.”

When everyone else seemed puzzled, the numbers always added up for Lucas.

“It seems, actually, it seems fairly, like, it seems fairly natural,” he said.

“Johns Hopkins gave him the course Honors Geometry. And that was in the third grade. Third grade. And then they also bought precalculus one or the other,” said Thomas. “It gets a little confusing. I have it written down.”

When he was in the second grade, Lucas was given an intellectually gifted Individualized Education Program (I.E.P.) by the state of Tennessee. It falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.), for public school children who require specially designed education curriculum to meet their needs.

“By Christmas of the second grade the teacher said she had just about exhausted all of her math skills,” said Thomas.

The Hinds called the University of Tennessee and hired a tutor on their own dime.

“He went through algebra one and algebra two in 20 trips in the second grade, then started coming to U.T. twice a week for tutoring,” explained Thomas and Andrea. “We’re bringing him here for the calculus classes five days a week, four days a week.”

“It’s 32 miles,” Thomas said about the drive from their Roane County home to U.T. “Since he was in the second grade we’ve made 409 trips.”

Not all states recognize intellectually giftedness, but Tennessee does. According to the Tennessee Department of Education website, ‘a child whose intellectual abilities, creativity, and potential for achievement are so outstanding that the child’s needs exceed differentiated general education programming, adversely affects educational performance, and requires specifically designed instruction or support services.’ Which means the school system was required to provide a free curriculum that was appropriate for Lucas’s needs.

“They said we’re going to give you 15 minutes a week for enrichment, and not all in one day,” explained the Hinds.

“We spent about $4,900 on tutors and we’ve had people that would chip in $25, a month or whatever. Yeah, just friends of ours. Then, I think we paid about $700 on books and fees and stuff like that,” explained the Hinds. “It was hard for us. Sometimes we would have to borrow money to have gas to get back and forth, but that was ok we would always pay it back.”

Since Lucas’s needs exceeded the teachers’ abilities, the district should have, at least, paid for the cost of his tutors because I.D.E.A ensures a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities at public expense.

“There was an incident at school, I won’t talk about it, with a teacher. We’d pretty much had enough after all the times since second grade and being put off. We even had one time, we had an I.E.P. where they told us he was doing really good on the test because he was a good guesser, he could just guess good. So we started reaching out for someone who could help us,” said the Hinds.

“This one knocked my socks off,” said Kim Kredich, a volunteer advocate for children with disabilities. “Everybody would think, well, ‘what’s so hard about being extra smart,’ but it’s really not that, it’s when a student is is so intellectually gifted and has such abilities that it makes where they are without supports and services inappropriate as an education they need more to provide a free and appropriate public education.”

Kredich brought the case to the attention of the Tennessee Department of Education where the Hinds family were reimbursed for travel, expenses and tutor costs and continues to cover the costs of his classes.

“Not only did the state give the proper guidance, but they also said that the students family can be reimbursed for past expenses. And for this family that’s extra important, they have sacrificed and done what they felt they needed to do,” said Kredich.

“Roane County really stepped up. We didn’t think it was ever going to happen but it’s been such a relief,” said Thomas and Andrea.

Lucas is a seventh grade student taking honors math classes at U.T. with the brightest college sophomores.

“He did make A’s in all of his classes, I’m happy to say and the faculty I’ve spoken to who did teach him, said he was fantastic in the class and they really enjoyed having him. So yes, he’s been a great master. Despite his age,” said Mathematics department head, Professor Conrad Plaut.

“I’m not really sure quite how to explain it but I feel relatable to some of them, especially when it comes to thinking and the thinking process,” said Lucas. “Especially when I got into conversations with people who really had a passion for mathematics and it felt more like a relief to be able to talk about mathematics and talk about mathematics at a higher level freely.”

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