First In Math Champions, Then and Now: James O'Shea

First In Math Champions, Then and Now: James O'Shea

EASTON, PA—Eight years ago, eighth-grader James O'Shea outperformed more than 500,000 of his peers to claim the title of #1 Player Nationwide—all grades—in the First In Math® Online Program for the 2009-2010 school year. It was his third and final appearance in the prestigious National Top Ten.

In 2010 and in 2018 - James O'Shea and Robert Sun 
James O'Shea and First In Math creator, Robert Sun - 2010 and 2018

Fast-forward to 2018. O’Shea, home from college on winter break, is sitting across the table from one of his mentors, creator of the First In Math online program, Robert Sun, reminiscing about his FIM days and discussing future plans.

The busy Economics and Pre-Health double major graduates from Notre Dame in the Spring, where he is also an undergrad Teaching Assistant for both biology and statistics. “It's crazy how time has passed so quickly since my days playing First In Math. I was looking through the website the other day, and it's incredible how much it has changed. There are so many more games and topics for kids to explore. It's great how big the program has become, and its user base has exploded.”

O'Shea is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, one of the world's largest academic honor societies, and will attend medical school at Thomas Jefferson University after graduation. “I'm so excited, becoming a physician has always been my long-term goal,” says O'Shea. “I'm very fortunate to be attending right out of college.

Sun invited him to take a peek at some new games in development, including coding activities in the new Computational Thinking (CT World) module. “I'm very excited that First In Math is including a coding aspect on the site; through my coursework, I've found that it's incredibly applicable across all fields. I just took a coding class this past semester. I wasn't supposed to be there because it was a IT majors-only class, but I was persuasive,” laughs O’Shea. “I learned about R and SQL and fell in love with it.”

But he says he’ll never forget the skills he practiced—and the fun he had—with First In Math. “When I saw my little brother Justin at the airport, the first thing he said to me was, ‘James! Guess how many stickers I have in First in Math!’ and wow, that brought back a lot of fond memories. My parents never forced me to compete, I did it because it was fun challenging myself, and it’s the same for Justin. He told me that he is top 20 in the nation for all grades and I'm so proud of him, he's been working really hard. He’s a third grader, and already well known as the ‘First in Math guy’ at his school.

Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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