Updated: Dec 11, 2021
Originally posted on October 22, 2021, on Scot Scoop: https://scotscoop.com/math-contests-make-their-return-to-carlmonts-campus/
Since coming to Carlmont HS in my freshman year, people all around me were taking part in Math Contests. I was interested in how the pandemic would have affected such an event, and especially as everyone was coming back to school, I was sure this would interest many of my peers. Writing this article allowed to explore the history behind this tradition and showed me why so many chose to partake.
Whether for extra credit or fun, math contests have been a long-standing tradition at Carlmont for decades. However, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many things, including the math contests, were put on hold for integrity reasons. Now, starting in late September, the contests have returned, ready to offer more extra points, bragging rights, or trophies to whoever wishes to practice their math skills.
According to Carlmont math teacher Robert Tsuchiyama, the recent return of math contests has been a massive success. Since the first contest after the return, many students, especially upper-level students, have been seeking to challenge themselves.
“For the juniors and seniors who enjoyed them [in past years], especially the real ‘mathletes,’ (the ones that enjoyed doing the math and being challenged), they’re very happy it’s back,” Tsuchiyama said.
Alexander Makeev, a sophomore at Carlmont, observed the high attendance at math contests.
“Walking by the math classrooms, it seems like they’re pretty full most of the time,” Makeev said.
Austin Wu, a Carlmont junior, agreed with Makeev, noting that there has been a positive response as well.
“I think the response is generally positive because, for a lot of people, they provide extra credit, and they’re also fun,” Wu said.
However, students—both new and previous enjoyers of the contests—aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the new opportunities and excitement. Teachers are also thankful that the contests have returned and provided extra educational value.
“Teachers are very happy it’s back,” Tsuchiyama said. “It’s a great time to review older topics, and it’s great to see the different approaches that students will take.”
“Whatever you want to get out of it, you can get out of it.” — Alexander Makeev
There are many benefits to math contests, according to Makeev and others.
“It’s surprisingly different from taking other tests,” Makeev said. “I think it offers a unique experience, and it’s a nice preparation to work on different skills that may not be taught in class.”
While some might attend the contests to practice their math skills and obtain more knowledge, most have other reasons to come.
“A large percentage of the students do it because they get extra credit for the ones they get right,” Tsuchiyama said.
However, not all teachers offer such motivating opportunities, leading students to choose other reasons for joining.
“It’s just a fun way for you to test your, not math knowledge, but math skills.” — Austin Wu
“It’s just a fun experience,” Makeev said.
While the name ‘math contest’ might seem frightening to those less confident in math, it is somewhat misleading. Most say that the math contests aren’t competitive; rather, they are an enjoyable opportunity.
“It’s not competitive, from my perspective,” Wu said. “It’s just a fun way for you to test your math skills.”
It depends on how much competition one creates for oneself, whether they want to be number one or just enjoy themselves.
“I don’t think they’re competitive. It’s just as competitive as you’d want them to be,” Makeev said.
The math contests also foster a community of like-minded students. Many stay after class during contests to discuss their methods and answers to each problem.
For teachers, that sort of discussion and collaboration among students is something that should be encouraged.
“To hear that math talk in class is just fantastic,” Tsuchiyama said.
“To hear that math talk in class is just fantastic. ” — Robert Tsuchiyama
All in all, math contests continue to offer everyone a fun and rewarding experience without the fear of a highly competitive atmosphere.
“It’s been just a long-standing tradition. We’ve always had very large participation, and from the math teacher’s standpoint, it’s nice to see them get excited about doing math,” Tsuchiyama said.
Makeev explained the helpfulness of the content and the opportunity for self-improvement, touching on the flexible nature of the contests.
Makeev said, “Whatever you want to get out of it, you can get out of it.”