National Number Knockout championship claimed by Minnesota CCer

Ethan with Rob and Leigh Bortins

Ethan with Rob and Leigh Bortins

Rochester, Minnesota—To the uninitiated ear, the answers sound like gibberish—faster than an auctioneer. But Ethan Gates, 12, of Rochester, not only knows exactly what he’s saying, he’s also performing dozens of math equations in his head to get those answers. All in 60 seconds.

Ethan can perform these mental math gymnastics so fast, in fact, that he won the National Number Knockout championship May 2, along with a $10,000 grand prize. His mother, Amber, won $2,000 as his teacher.

“This is so awesome, I can’t believe it!” Ethan said following his victory. “N2K has radically changed my view of mathematics and exponentially inspired my love for mental math!” Ethan said he plans to save his winnings and watch them “multiply.”

Ethan was one of 16 finalists in the National Number Knockout (N2K) competition held May 2 during a five-day cruise to the Bahamas aboard the Carnival cruise ship Liberty. The competition began with 16 10-14-year-old students from all over the country. When three lightning-fast rounds were over, Ethan was the sole competitor left standing.

Ethan is the middle of five children and went on the cruise with his whole family. He enjoys playing soccer and even volunteers at his local library, but his first love is N2K. He was also a national finalist in 2016, and his competitors said he was the odds-on favorite to win this year.

“I love the speed of the game, as well as the continual challenge as the boards increase in difficulty,” Ethan explained. “Math is my favorite subject; you probably figured that out, right? And I also like Mathcounts, Rubik’s Cube and Junior Bible Quiz at church.”

National Number Knockout is a mental math game played with three dice and a playing grid of 36 squares, each containing a number. Students are given 60 seconds to generate as many equations as possible with unique answers from the numbers on the dice using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, roots, and exponents, in such a way that the result is a number on the board.

The 16 finalists had to survive a rigorous series of local and regional competitions to reach the finals. Each of the finalists received two free tickets to the cruise and $800 in traveling money.

The N2K competition is hosted by Classical Conversations®, a classical education resource used by homeschoolers in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries. Classical Conversations now has more than 105,000 students enrolled in its tutoring programs. Ethan has attended the Foundations program for four years at the Rochester Tuesday 2 Classical Conversations community where his mom is also a tutor.

CC provides resources, guidance and a community for a home school curriculum using classical education in three developmental stages: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, and taught from a Christian worldview, according to co-founder, Leigh Bortins, who, along with her husband, Rob, funds the N2K competition. She says CC supports homeschooling parents by cultivating the love of learning through a Christian worldview in fellowship with other families. She believes there are three keys to a great education: classical, Christian and community.

Started in 1997 and headquartered in Southern Pines, North Carolina, CC is a family-owned company that provides services to almost 2,500 CC communities around the world. For more information visit

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