Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson: High School Students Who May Have Solved Pythagorean Theorem using Trigonometry

Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson are two young Black students from Louisiana who recently made headlines for their remarkable achievement in finding a new way to solve the Pythagorean theorem. This theorem, which is one of the most fundamental concepts in mathematics, has been studied and explored by countless scholars throughout history. However, Johnson and Jackson may have been able to prove it in a way that no other mathematician has been able to before.


Photo Courtesy of St. Mary’s Academy

The Pythagorean theorem is a simple formula that describes the relationship between the sides of a right triangle. Specifically, it states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse (the longest side of a right triangle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. This theorem is named after the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who is credited with discovering it.


Calcea and Ne’Kiya, who are both seniors at St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans, sought to find a new proof for Pythagoras for a bonus question during a math competition at school.


“It has been done in the past by other people, but the proofs have not really been trigonometric,” Johnson said to ABC News. “They’ve been like algebraic or like calculous based, but this is really using like the trigonometric rules.”


This means that Johnson and Jackson could be the first mathematicians in over 2,000 years to find trigonometric proof for the theorem.


They recently presented their findings at the American Mathematical Society’s Annual Southeastern Conference, where they were the only high school students in attendance. While their proof hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, the girls are working with their school to get it ready for submission to a scientific journal, where experts will analyze their work.


While their findings have yet to be proven, it’s still cause for celebration that students this young were able to present their research at a major conference.


“The important thing to celebrate is two young African American women presenting their math research at a major conference, which is a rare thing since most speakers are in college or above,” said Dr. Catherine Roberts, the executive director of the American Mathematical Society to ABC.


For now, Johnson and Jackson are focused on finishing their high school careers and going to college.