Math Competition at Last – by Shuangcheng

This weekend I came to Boston to compete in the Harvard-MIT Math Tournament as one of the nineteen Westtown Math Team members. Although this was the second year that I knew about and planned to attend this tournament, it was my first time to actually come to Boston and compete, since I was injured at the last minute before the tournament last year. We took off from our school on Friday morning, reached the Philadelphia International Airport, arrived at Boston Logan Airport in the afternoon, and eventually checked into our hotel in the evening. We had a brief team meeting and went to bed early so that we would be ready for the tournament on Saturday.

This year the competition is held at MIT. The competition consists of four different sections. The first one is the General Round, a fifty-minute section with ten questions. Everyone in the general round competes and later will be awarded individually. For me, the General Round this year is easier than what I expected. I have completed six questions within my fifty minutes, and would have been able to solve three more if I had ten more minutes.

Following is the Theme Round, another fifty-minute section with ten questions. As another section that is competed individually, it is different from the General Round in that each year it only focuses on one or two themes and topics in Math. This year the Theme Round focused on two different topics: Traveling and Base. The Traveling section touches upon different mathematics areas such as probability and maximum questions, while the Base section is focused on one type of question. The theme round was harder for me, and I only solved six questions out of ten.

Next is the Team Round, a sixty-minute section with ten questions. I worked with five other teammates: Chester, Winnie, Shirley, Nic and Monica. We divided ourselves into three work pairs so that we could work more efficiently. We eventually answered six out of the ten questions, which is better compared to our team last year.

The Guts Round is the last phase, an eighty-minute section with 36 questions. We also compete as the same team. During the Guts Round, we were getting three problems at a time, and we would have to hand in the answers of the previous three problems in order to get the next three problems. We did not do well on this section and eventually ranked out of first twenty. I think the reason is that we were rushing through and not careful enough with the easy questions, and even though we got higher value questions later, they were so hard for us to solve.

I could tell myself, and also others, that it has been a fantastic experience for me to compete in this competition at MIT. However, it is somehow cruel for me to see our distance between the individual winners and the winning teams. It makes me realize that what I have done is far from enough, and it is certainly shocking to see a broader world full of smart math students. I believe that Westtown still has a long way to go if we want to have an individual or team winner in a competition like this. Indeed it is hard to compare what we have and what the winners are required to have. But I hope that what I learned from this experience and the problems will help later generations of Westtown students to achieve a better level in math competitions.

One thought on “Math Competition at Last – by Shuangcheng

  1. margaretjhaviland

    Dear Shuangcheng, it sounds like the weekend was exhilarating and a humbling experience. Do you feel like your work this past quarter helped? In other words did your preparation help you and others do better than you would have?

    What suggestions would you have for Westtown teachers in order for their students to be more competitive? If the goal was to have a highly competitive team how would you design backwards from that goal to a create that successful program? Perhaps these recommendations should be a part of your next blog or a part of your final reflection?

    PS proof read carefully before you “publish”


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