Steamboat Springs Charlie Stoddard's introduction to mathematics came in an unusual place.
Visiting the grocery store with his mother, Tracy, when he was in kindergarten, Charlie was left alone near the comic books. Instead of reading about caped avengers, he took out a pencil and completed the book of kindergarten math problems while his mother shopped.
Since that time, Stoddard's love of learning and math have combined to lead him to incredible achievements. The most recent was a perfect score on the SAT. That stands on top of his previous perfect score on the ACT.
According to the Associated Press, SAT officials say 269 of the 1.5 million students who took the test last year achieved a perfect score of 2400. Only 177 of the 2.2 million students who took the ACT test during the 2006-07 school year had a perfect score of 36.
"He's truly probably a once-in-a-lifetime (student)," said Steamboat Springs High School Assistant Principal Marty Lamansky.
Stoddard said his success was no secret.
"It was a lot of hard work and long nights cranking out homework, learning on my own," he said.
Stoddard has been learning on his own for many years, beginning with correspondence courses with Stanford University beginning in sixth grade.
The highest math class offered at the high school is a second year of calculus, and Charlie was enrolled in Stanford's equivalent when he was in seventh grade.
He now estimates he has completed 30 hours of course credit through his correspondence courses and is currently enrolled in Modern Algebra and a programming course.
Despite the hours of studying, Charlie still finds time to play keyboard in the jazz band, teach piano lessons and run on the school's cross-country team.
Tracy Stoddard says she and her husband, Bob, didn't have much to do with their son's success, but several of their decisions have had big impacts on his life.
The family has never owned a television. They also enjoy camping and other outdoor activities, which shows in Charlie's cross-country talents. Tracy Stoddard said she also nourished his love of reading as often as possible.
"When he was real tiny, before kindergarten, his favorite thing in the whole world was to go to the library every day. And he would check out about 20 books every day," Tracy Stoddard said.
Tracy has been a long-time elementary teacher who now works with gifted and talented students at Soda Creek Elementary School. Bob Stoddard is a medical device engineer who often discusses his work with Charlie.
"I like talking to him about the stuff at his work, and he likes hearing about my classes," Charlie Stoddard said.
In his free time, Charlie likes to play the piano and learn more math.
"Math for me was like other kids playing video games. It was something I did for fun," he said. "All my friends were into academics, too."
During the summers Charlie often has attended math camps across the country, but last summer he worked with a professor at the University of Northern Colorado on advanced mathematics that can be used in cryptography.
Despite his high intellect, Charlie remains grounded and does not ask to be excused from routine coursework, Lamansky said.
The only major exception was to allow him to continue his correspondence math courses instead of repeating classes he had finished before high school.
"Charlie has never asked for having things completely waived. What he wants is to be as big a part of our student body as possible," Lamansky said. "It takes a bit of work (to organize Charlie's course work), but in the end, that is what is needed for very rare and exceptional students."
Charlie also was a student in Lamansky's speech class one year. Lamansky said that although Charlie could have put something together at the last second and still received an A, it was obvious he put effort into all of his work.
"I don't think it is physically or psychologically possible for Charlie Stoddard to slack off," Lamansky said.
Charlie has not yet applied to colleges, but Lamansky said he expects no problems in Stoddard's future. "The sky's the limit for Charlie. Whatever he wants to do."
Charlie said his ambition is to major in mathematics and eventually become a doctor. He plans on applying at Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Northern Colorado.
Despite the 30 correspondence credits and many AP credits Charlie will have earned by the time he enters college, he said he has no plans to breeze through his higher education.
"I don't especially plan on graduating early," he said. "I'm interested in learning for the sake of learning."
Tracy Stoddard said she supports her son in whatever decision he makes.
"We hope that he finds something he loves to do, that he is passionate about, and that he uses what he has to do great things."