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Olson is a born mathematician
Matthew Olson, right, a senior at Chestatee, was named STAR student for the Hall County district, which includes the six public high schools plus Brenau Academy and Maranatha Christian Academy. Olson chose his math teacher, Darrell Skogman, as his STAR teacher. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Hall County STAR student Matthew Olson was a born mathematician, according to his Chestatee High School calculus teacher Darrell Skogman.

"You put the ‘math’ back in Matthew," Skogman told Olson following the Kiwanis Club luncheon Tuesday where the Chestatee High School senior was named the district’s STAR student. "Matt is in with a group of intellects, I would say, and he is the chief among them."

Olson said between his love for math and his introduction to Georgia Tech, where his 22-year-old sister attends college, he’s decided to be an engineer. In the fall, Olson will start school at Georgia Tech and embark on that career path. The Chestatee senior currently is apprenticing at HGBD, a Gainesville architecture firm that allows him to work on projects with engineers as well as architects.

He said he has yet to decide which area of engineering is his calling, but math is his motive.

"In math, as opposed to literature — my least favorite subject — there’s one correct answer," Olson said. "It’s not down to somebody’s opinion."

But Olson also excels on the tennis court and has a knack for the written language. He serves as Chestatee High’s editor in chief for its yearbook, "The Eagle," and is spearheading the school’s new National English Honor Society literary magazine.

Olson said this year is the second he’s been in one of Skogman’s math classes. Olson said he named Skogman a STAR teacher because he is a "fantastic" teacher who allows the class to debate answers. Skogman said sometimes he throws difficult math questions out to the class, and sometimes works with students to derive the correct answer.

"Having a class with Skogman is like having a class with a student who knows all the stuff," Olson said. "We’re all students in Skogman’s class."

Skogman said class discussion is perhaps what makes his math class different than most.

And Olson said every once in a while, he enjoys hearing Skogman admit he’s been outdone by his students. But that’s one of the things Skogman says he enjoys about his job.

"I learn something daily, whether it’s big or little," he said. "... For about 90 percent of my students, I could just hand them the calculus textbook, and they could learn the material themselves. But I guess I feel my job is to make it more interesting than just that black and white."