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A Mathlete is Just an Athlete with an ‘mmm’

Nov 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page, People

AmarPaul2Many Etown students are engaged in interesting and fun activities. This is the story of one Etown ninth grader who has competed in math competitions and is on the school’s Junior Varsity Quiz Bowl team. Amar Paul is a ninth grader at Elizabethtown Area High School. He practices the martial art of Moo Duk Kwan.

EJ: You’ve competed in some math competitions recently. Were they fun?

AP: The math competitions, such as the MathCounts Pennsylvania state competition, offered a nice challenge to me, and they were definitely a lot of fun.

EJ: Where were they held?

AP: The first competition, the MathCounts regional competition, was held at Millersville University for the Lincoln chapter. The second, the state MathCounts competition, was held in Harrisburg.

EJ: How do the math competitions work?

AP: MathCounts competitions have four distinct parts. The first is a sprint round. In that round, a student is given 40 minutes to work out 30 problems of gradually increasing difficulty. Calculators are not permitted. Then comes the target round, in which a student is given one pair of questions (with calculators) and 6 minutes to solve both problems. This is repeated 4 times, for a total of 24 minutes, so the student has done 8 problems. However, once a pair’s 6 minutes are up, the student cannot go back to those problems and the next pair is distributed.

The next part is the team round (which I did not compete in at States, because my team did not go to States). In the team round, a team of (usually) four students uses 20 minutes to complete 10 problems, which get harder as they progress (problems 9 and 10 would be the hardest). The students can use calculators and can communicate, and most answers are double-checked.

The next and last part is the countdown round, in which the top 10 students are called up. Then the 10th and 9th placed students face off to complete a set of 3 spoken questions, each with 45 seconds. They must buzz in and say the correct answer (if it is wrong they do not lose points). Whoever gets the most right out of the 3 questions stays up, while the other sits down (if there’s a tie, tiebreakers are given). Then, the 8th placed student comes up. Then that pair faces off, and so on and so on. Individual scores are taken by adding the total number correct in sprint round. and twice the number correct in target round Team scores are calculated by averaging all that team’s individual scores; and overall scores by seeing who comes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on to 10th in Countdown Round.

EJ: Do your mom and dad help you study math or do you mostly do it by yourself?

AP: My dad sometimes teaches me useful math tricks and formulas, but I learn mostly from the coach of MathCounts (Mrs. Stephanis) and by practice and from my teachers.

EJ: What else do you like to do besides math?

AP: Besides math, I love to read, I occasionally play video games, and I am in Quiz Bowl, which is like high school Jeopardy with teams. We also do the WGAL Brain Busters competition.

EJ: Would you rather study math or watch a movie?

AP: I would rather watch a movie, because I’m already quite good at math and I don’t need to study it a lot. If I had any math homework, I would finish that first; but I haven’t really studied math very much.

EJ: Are you planning to compete in more competitions?

AP: I cannot compete in many more competitions, as MathCounts is only for grades six to eight, but I would definitely compete in them if I could.

EJ: What would you like to do as a job when you finish school?

AP: When I finish school, I would like to become an engineer, because I really like math and science.

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  1. Amar was an exceptional Mathlete. I taught him pre-algebra when he was in 6th grade, and he joined MathCounts that year. He stayed with the group for all 3 of his middle school years. It was a pleasure to work with him, and his parents were very supportive. MathCounts is a wonderful way for students who love math to excel. It helps them to extend their math horizons, and is a wonderful asset when they take their college entrance exams. I sometimes worry that the 6th graders will be discouraged when they try to compete with those who have been in a year or two, but for those who stick it out, it is definitely rewarding.

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