Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Middle Schoolers Display Math Prowess at Math Counts in Colorado

The world of competitive math doesn't always get the press and spotlight the way the nation obsesses over the spelling bee. But the students competing in the national Math Counts competition are every bit the exceptional students as top spellers, and probably more so. Math Counts is a national math competition sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers, and this month will see regional competitions in states across the country. In Colorado, there are eight regional competitions, and my son competed in the Denver Metro Regional where he and his teammates vied for a spot at the state finals in March and the national competition in Boston in May. Here's my story on the recent competition: Cherry Creek Middle Schoolers Succeed at Metro Math Counts.

They are called “mathletes.” And, while they may not run the 40-yard-dash in 4.5 seconds, they can certainly solve complex algorithms in that time. Their skills were on display at the University of Denver on February 7 in the annual Metro Area Math Counts Competition. The students were tasked with quickly answering questions such as “How many ordered triples (x, y, z) of positive integers have the property that x + y + z = 6?” and “What is the largest prime that divides both 20! + 14! and 20! − 14!?” Clearly, for those worrying about the math skills of Colorado students, there is much hope to be found in the world of Math Counts.

The winning team for this year’s Metro regional was the Cherry Creek Challenge School. The second place team was Campus Middle School, which had five of the top ten students in the Countdown, including the eventual individual champion, Austen Mazenko. Mazenko defeated one of last year’s state champions Anjalie Kini in an intense final round. Former Math Counts competitors Avi Swartz and Isani Singh of Cherry Creek High School were in the audience cheering on their former teammates, and they tensed up watching the final question. “When Avi and I saw that final question,” Isani said, “we just thought, ‘Oh, man, who’s going to get it first?” Because Mazenko and Kini are two of the top math students in the state, she knew it was simply a matter of speed. This year Mazenko had the faster buzzer.

No comments: