Illustration by Olivia Hom

On Tuesday, November 15th, M-A held the second math contest of the year. M-A’s school-wide math contests are part of the California Math League (CML)  This is the first time the contests have been held in two years due to the pandemic. 

 This contest is held on six different dates that students are able to participate in. The contests are 30 minutes long and consist of six questions. Participants get a point for each correct answer. The M-A website states that the typical score on a contest can be a 1 or 2 out of 6 with many students getting 0’s due to the difficulty of the contest question. Freshman Max Spier, who participated in both of the contests held so far , said, “I think some of the questions were definitely easier to answer than the others.”

We asked students to rate its difficulty on a scale from one to ten, with one being the easiest and ten the hardest. Sophomore Abbie Macleod said, “The first four questions were a five, but the last two were an eight. The further into the test the harder it got.”

While the math contests are difficult, there are many benefits to participating. Math Department Chair Michele Breen said, “The math contest is an enrichment opportunity for all students. It offers students the opportunity to deal with problem solving and deal with some very challenging problems. This gets students to think and to offer them the opportunity to do problem solving and thinking outside of the classroom.”

Students share that they also felt the same way. Sophomore Corbin Nam said, “The problems on these competitions are a lot more than what you would typically see. They are really interesting questions that involve critical and logical reasoning, which likely aren’t like anything we’ve done in school.”

Unlike previous years, the Math Department has decided not to offer extra credit for participating in the math contest. Breen said, “The Math Department had a conversation around the opportunity for extra credit and we decided that this wasn’t the best place for that. Extra credit should be for each individual class and not big programs like the math contest.” 

Unfortunately, this decision has significantly decreased the number of students participating in the math contest. Breen added that “In prior years, we’d have hundreds of kids participating—almost every math classroom had kids in it working toward a good way to get some extra credit. But now, because of that decision that no one is offering extra credit, we have seen a dramatic decline in the number of students who are coming.” 

In past years, due to the limited number of spots, only students who performed well in the CML contests were eligible to partake in the 10-12 grade American Math Contest (AMC 10/12). 

This year, however, because of lack of participation, there are enough spots for all students interested in taking part in the AMC 10/12. Breen said, “We used to have to do a lottery and teacher recommendations. It used to be that we had a big pool of kids for a certain number of slots, but now we still have that number of slots but only around 30-60 kids participating”. 

Many students participate in the contest with their friends. Senior Hugo Inglesson said, “I recommend taking the math contest, especially if you get some friends to do it with you so you can share your answers and methods after taking it.”

Both the AMC and California Math League contests are great ways to improve your math skills or just meet fellow students interested in math. Breen said that “No matter the math level, all students are encouraged to participate in this opportunity.”

If you are interested in participating in future contests, there are four more this year, on December 13th, January 10th, February 14th, and March 14th.

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