In the world of the ACT college entrance exams, the perfect number is 36. And Zach Dumey nailed it.
The 17-year-old Jackson High School senior is one of just six Missouri students -- out of 15,000 -- who scored 36 on the ACT. Dumey, one of 395,000 students nationally who took the test June 9, is one of 177 who got the top score.
"I was very surprised. I was hoping of a 34 or a 35," he said. "I said, 'Whoa!' I couldn't believe I got a 36."
The average score was 21.2.
Dumey credits his high school math teacher, Carol Keen, for helping him gain three points over his sophomore ACT score.
"She's an amazing teacher," he said. "She really helped me learn to think. ... I think I owe her the most. She broke down all these complicated equations, not just into formulas, but explained why this happens, the very basic stuff."
He said the key was learning "to adapt my thinking to any new problem I'm hit with."
Keen said Dumey was also willing to change his learning style.
"Zach is very bright. He has a lot of natural ability, but when I first had him in class last fall, he was not very good at writing things out. His mind works faster than his pencil," Keen said. "I really encouraged him to write things correctly."
Keen, head of Jackson High School's math department, has been teaching for 29 years.
She said the main goal of teaching math is making connections between old material and new lessons.
"That's probably the major goal in teaching mathematics, getting them to see how it's all interrelated," she said.
In addition to math, Dumey also excelled in other sections of the test.
He's currently enrolled in four advanced placement classes: biology, English, government and calculus.
"Education is very important in our family. There's never a question about whether you're going to do well in school. That's expected," said Pam Dumey, a music teacher at Cape Girardeau Central Middle School.
She and her husband, John Dumey, an account manager with Premium Mechanical Services in Jackson, have two older children in college. Amanda Dumey started law studies Wednesday at the University of Tulsa. Sarah Dumey is a junior at Southeast Missouri State University, studying hospitality management.
Zach Dumey has also excelled as a singer, winning local, regional and national awards. This year, he's on Jackson High School's swim team.
While he's confident of starting college as a chemistry major, "I'm not sure I'm going to settle on that," he said.
Although mail has been pouring in from colleges across the country -- including Yale, Harvard and Princeton -- Dumey said he'd like to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Washington University in St. Louis or Grinnell College in Iowa.
335-6611, extension 127