Math whiz takes long road to Simpson

by Mark Pleiss

Senior Lwanda Manxodidi has come a long way from Cape Town, South Africa.

After attending two high schools in Cape Town, Masiyile and Simon Estes, he arrived at Lincoln High School in Des Moines in 1998 as part of a rotary exchange program. There, he discovered his love of math and science.

“I really excelled at math in high school,” Manxodidi said. “I was pretty good.”

From there, he went to Luther College and pursued a major in chemistry. Last year he transferred to Simpson and switched his major from chemistry to math.

“I just liked math more because I’m good at it, and I like teaching it,” Manxodidi said. “Chemistry just wasn’t my passion.”

He speaks near-perfect English, but Manxodidi’s native tongue is Xhosa – a dialect that involves a short click of the tongue against the cheek.

In high school in South Africa, many of Manxodidi’s classes were taught in British English, so the language adjustment wasn’t difficult when he moved to the United States.

Manxodidi’s speaks very highly of his host parents, Jim and Betsy Wheeler of Norwalk, who he says have been a great inspiration.

On the weekends and in his spare time, Manxodidi likes soccer and racquetball, though he swears he’s horrible at racquetball.

Next year, he plans to attend graduate school where he hopes to study math and teach. He’s been a stand-out math student at Simpson, but has learned to stay humble because he claims he has never won anything.

“From losing I’ve learned that I’ll never win,” Manxodidi said.