THEY call themselves the Neil Armstrong Space Cadets and they thrive on lollies, chicken chips and algebra.
These Year 9 Byron Bay High School students were good at clowning around for The Northern Star yesterday, but they're no fools, having just won the Far North Coast Maths Olympiad Challenge for the first time in the school's history.
The team of four maths students travelled to Ballina for the Maths Olympiad last week with their teacher, Neil Armstrong, to pit themselves against 17 other teams from 15 North Coast schools in a full day of individual challenges, team relays and tests of logic, as well as numerical prowess.
Unlike other Olympic teams, there were no marathon training sessions before the day, the school's acting head of mathematics, Jacqui Lyons, said.
"These kids won on pure talent," she said.
The Neil Armstrong Space Cadets won the overall Maths Olympiad Challenge and Relay Challenge, while the Individual Challenge was won by 15-year-old Carl Ashworth, who takes part in the school's maths extension program held before school four mornings a week, with teachers volunteering to coach talented maths students from Year 9 onwards..
"It is the first time Byron Bay High School has ever won the challenge and our win tells us our maths extension program is starting to pay dividends," Ms Lyons said.
"We've been running the program for three years and some of the students are exceptional.
"We find that students who undertake the extension program follow through with taking up pure maths or engineering courses at university," she said.
"It helps them transition into university. They are better prepared."
Through the extension maths program, Carl will be sitting for his HSC maths next year - even though he will still be in Year 10.
And if all goes to plan, he'll study maths at Griffith University while completing high school.
Carl offered some advice to students not quite at Olympiad grade: "Revision really helps," he said. "And read the question first."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.