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Queens Students Compete in Gadget-Based Math Competition

ASTORIA — A group of Queens middle school students put their skills to the test Wednesday night during a math tournament that channeled kids' love for gadgets.

A group of 18 students participated in the "Mad about Math" tournament, at the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens on 30th Road, solving problems posed to them through a new educational mobile app.

The group that organized the event Japan-based Benesse, just launched StraightAce, a self-tutoring math app for smart phones that hopes to appeal to kids' love of gadgets to get them to do their homework.

"The traditional pen and paper when you study math is kind of boring," said Benesse president Shigeki Matsuo. "Kids love smart phones nowadays, and we try to put those aspects in our products."

The group had had 10 minutes to answer 10 math problems posed to them through the app on an iPad, and whoever answered the most questions correctly was given one of the gadgets to take home as a prize.

Yaseer Elkhou, an eighth grader at IS 141 in Ditmars, was declared the winner in his age group and said he was thrilled to take his new high-tech toy home.

"I feel great," the 13-year-old said after his victory. "You can learn a lot from it."

StraightAce comes with built-in lesson plans, quizzes and explanations for the questions kids get wrong. Boys & Girls Club of Queens director Terence Hughes said he is happy to embrace any product that gets kids thinking on their gadgets instead of just playing Angry Birds.

"This is how kids learn now," he said. "They're on their phone, iPad or computers all day long."