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New Orleans East teens make 'impossible' mathematical discovery unproven for 2,000 years

"Our slogan is 'No Excellence Without Hard Labor.' So, they definitely push us."

NEW ORLEANS — It takes a special kind of student to outsmart 2,000 years of mathematicians -- at St. Mary's Academy, they have two.

Calcea Johnson and Ne'Kiya Jackson just gave a presentation at the American Mathematical Society's Annual Southeastern Conference. What they were able to do is find a way to prove the Pythagorean Theorem using trigonometry without circular logic - something mathematicians have been trying to do for nearly 2,000 years.

It might not surprise you to hear they were the only high school students in the room.

"It's really an unparalleled feeling, honestly, because there's just nothing like being able to do something that people don't think young people can do," Calcea said. "A lot of times you see this stuff, you don't see kids like us doing it."

If you need a refresher on Pythagorean Theorem, you're not alone.

Calcea and Ne'Kiya explained it to me like this: Basically, trigonometry is based on Pythagoras' Theorem (A^2 + B^2 = C^2, sound familiar?), so using trigonometry to prove Pythagoras' Theorem is what's known as circular logic.

An idea can't prove itself.

If you're wondering how two high school seniors figure something like this out, well, it all starts with the teachers who challenged them to do the impossible.

"Our slogan is 'No Excellence Without Hard Labor.' So, they definitely push us," Calcea said.

"We have really great teachers," Ne'Kiya added.

Even if you don't understand their math it's easy to see that with the right push, students can do the impossible.

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