Friday, April 1, 2016

Math Counts State Championship in Colorado

On March 19, Colorado held its state championship for the MathCounts competition, which is one of the top contests for middle school math. MathCounts is sponsored by the Raytheon Corporation and the National Society of Professional Engineers. The national championship is on May 7-9 in Washington DC. Here's is my write-up of the competition, which was won by my son and his team:

Mazenko, Campus Middle School Win MathCounts State Championship

On a beautifully brisk and sunny Saturday morning in March, the top middle school math minds in the state met to match wits and problem solving skills at the Colorado School of Mines. It was the state championship and national qualifying tournament for the national MathCounts Competition. For the second consecutive year, Austen Mazenko won the individual countdown round and his team from Campus Middle School in Greenwood Village won the team competition. Mazenko will be joined by the team of Rahul Thomas, Edward Lim, and Anudeep Golla for the national tournament in Washington DC on May 7-9.

MathCounts competitors are called “math-letes,” and they attack complicated algorithmic challenges with the same speed and ferocity as a sprinter or a blitzing linebacker. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Countdown Round to decide the national team. In Countdown, the top ten competitors from the morning’s written rounds are called to the stage where they go head-to-head in a “lightning fast” challenge to answer complicated questions like “Integers p and q are both prime and p 2 + q 2 = 53. What is the value of p + q ?” in 45 seconds or less. This year’s Countdown posed a huge challenge for Anudeep Golla of Southern Hills Middle School. Golla, a finalist and member of the Colorado national team in 2015, was the first name called to the stage. That meant he would have to beat five straight opponents to earn a trip to DC for nationals.   “It was pretty intense,” Golla said, “I just kept hoping for one more question.” After reaching the final four, he succumbed to Eddie Lim of Lesher World IB Middle School in Ft. Collins.

Once the final four team was set, the competition became a battle for second place, as most of the competitors in the room knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to dethrone last year’s champion Austen Mazenko of Campus Middle School. After Lim knocked out Golla, he was bested by Rahul Thomas of Campus MS. But as a teammate of Mazenko’s, Rahul knew he drew the short straw. That challenge became clear when Mazenko answered his first two questions in less than two seconds. The third question which clinched Mazenko’s second state title took a little longer at roughly four seconds. The speed and accuracy surprised even the most veteran of MathCounts observers, among them was Matt Bixby of The Challenge School. “That was amazing,” Bixby said. “I mean study and preparation certainly plays a role, but that sort of speed is something else altogether.” As winner of the team round, Campus Middle School gets to take their coach to the national competition. That means Amy Bainbridge, the Gifted & Talented Coordinator at Campus, will travel with the team to DC in hopes of competing with roughly 220 of the top middle school mathletes in the country.

Local MathCounts director and coordinator Noelle Cochran of the Colorado chapter of the National Society of Professional Engineers again coordinated the state event, and she was responsible for organizing the competition of the eight regional winners and dozens of other qualifiers from around the state. She had high praise for all the competitors and volunteers, and she was especially appreciative of the former MathCounts competitors who return to help out. “We couldn’t do this without the work of so many volunteers,” Cochran said, and she urged the crowd to continue to promote and support MathCounts. The world of competitive math “is a great way to engage kids,” Cochran explained, and she spoke with competitors afterward about opportunities in fields like engineering and data science. MathCounts is a national organization , and the competition is open to all middle school students. Interested parties can obtain more information at


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