Students test mathmatical prowess with American Math Competition

Meghan Kennedy, Staff Writer

About 70 Blue Valley students gathered in the Commons to participate in the American Math Competition (AMC) on Feb. 5.
The AMC is composed of multiple rounds, with the first one starting in February. If students score above a certain benchmark, they move on to the next round, the American International Math Exam (AIME).
The AMC is a paper-and-pencil test consisting of 25 questions, with a time limit of 80 minutes. “The questions are extremely difficult,” math teacher Adam Wade said. “They range from medium difficulty to extreme difficulty. Most often, a very good number [of questions] right is 15. So if you can get 15 out of the 25, you’ll be in the top one percent of the United States.”
Wade said the questions are so difficult because each problem takes a lot of time and concentration.
“Basically, it doesn’t get into calculus,” he said. “They are all problems you can solve with what you’ve learned in Geometry, Algebra, Pre Calculus and Trig. Some of the problems have so many layers to them and so many steps that, even if you get one of the really hard ones right, it’ll take a large amount of time.”
Junior Dede Hayworth said at first the questions were easy for her, but got harder as the test progressed.
“There were all types of math questions,” she said. “I knew it was going to be hard, but I expected it to be less hard than it actually was. I think I did pretty awful. I didn’t even answer all the questions. It was only 25 questions, so I thought it was going to be a lot longer.”
Sophomore Luke Conners said each individual is ranked against people in their grade level.
“It’s more like an SAT-type test,” he said. “You get the points docked if you get the question wrong. It’s not a traditional test. It’s the same concepts, but not like what you’ve seen in your math classes.”
Wade said any student can participate if they are interested.
“Basically what [the math teachers] did is we asked our students in our honors math classes if they wanted to do it or not,” he said. “If they said yes, we offered them this opportunity. If they said no, it wasn’t a big deal. It’s something of a resumé builder more than anything else. It does not come with any tremendous rewards, other than just doing great and potentially advancing to the next round.”
Hayworth is currently enrolled in Honors Pre-Calculus.
“My math teacher recommended I take the test,” she said. “She said it was good opportunity to challenge myself. I also think there were a lot of scholarship opportunities.”
The AIME test lasts three hours long, consisting of only 10 questions. The answer to every question is a number between 0 and 999.
Wade said the AIME usually takes place after spring break.
“In the past, some years we’ve had people qualify for the AIME,” he said. “Oddly enough, when I went here my junior year, I qualified. But, even at that next level, I think I only got three questions right.”
Wade said no one from BV has ever advanced further than the AIME.
“I honestly have no idea how that’s even picked,” he said. “For example, we had a kid a couple of years ago who, as a sixth grader, took Honors Algebra II here and as a seventh grader took Honors Pre-Calc. He scored off the charts at the first round and very well in the second round. However, those didn’t quite get him to the third round, the [United States American Mathematical Olympiad].”
Conners participated in the competition for the second time this year.
“I’m enrolled in Accelerated Pre-Calc this year,” he said. “Math has always been my strongest subject. I thought this would be an interesting way to see how far I can go with it.”