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Integrating math competitions into a virtual format

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

By Miranda Lu and Norah Shen Dec. 9, 2020

Senior Edward Hwang and Sophomore Daniel Xie study together for their upcoming math competitions by reviewing math problems. // Julia Nakanishi Photo


When Sophomores Maggie Liu and Daniel Xie competed at math tournaments last year, they would travel to test centers and complete the tests in-person. Now, Liu and Xie take math tests from home as several math organizations have modified their tournaments to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Some tournaments allot a specific time period for test-taking, but others require contestants to take tests altogether in a virtual meeting. For instance, the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Math Tournament and the American Scholastic Mathematics Association have been moved online, but tournaments that require in-person proctoring such as the Santa Clara University Math Tournament have been cancelled. However, despite these cancellations, Liu and Xie have been attending more contests than they did before the pandemic. Because all of the competitions are all online now, they are able to go to non-local tournaments that were previously too far to compete at.


The new virtual tournaments have several advantages: students can compete against people from across the nation, and online rounds tend to be more punctual than in-person rounds. Despite these benefits, Liu and Senior Edward Hwang both prefer in-person competitions.


“As much as I enjoy the convenience of attending competitions online, in-person tournaments are a lot more fun. Additionally, seeing people around me working hard on a test motivates me to stay focused,” Hwang said.


In order to prepare for competitions, Hwang, Liu and Xie study by taking mock tests, watching math videos from Youtube channels such as Numberphile and 3Blue1Brown and working with other math club students.

In order to prepare for competitions, Hwang, Liu and Xie study by taking mock tests, watching math videos from Youtube channels such as Numberphile and 3Blue1Brown and working with other math club students. Liu and Hwang also use test preparation books, including the Art of Problem Solving’s volumes on the central math competition subjects—algebra, geometry, counting, and number theory.

Outside of tournaments, competitive math can help with school math courses as well. Many concepts covered in competitive math overlap with the school’s math curriculum, allowing students to better understand complex topics.


They believe that the skills they have gained from competing will be beneficial throughout their lives.

“Competitive math helps build several essential skills. For instance, I enhanced my problem solving and critical thinking skills through competitions. Most of the time, you need to think outside of the box to solve the problems given during a competition—very rarely can questions be solved solely by memorizing a formula,” Xie said.


Although they had to adjust to virtual math tournaments, Liu, Hwang and Xie are able to resume their competition season. They believe that the skills they have gained from competing will be beneficial throughout their lives.

 

About the Contributors

Miranda Lu

Staff Writer


Miranda Lu is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She enjoys hiking, reading, and watching movies in her free time.










Norah Shen

Staff Writer


Norah Shen is a freshman at Leland High School and is a new staff writer. She likes to read, listen to music, and relentlessly tease her younger sister.

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