Urbana Middle School leads the pack in annual math competition

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Jan 9 – It might have been a Saturday, but that didn’t stop 150 middle school students from heading to Governor Thomas Johnson Middle School to solve math problems.

And judging by the expression on their faces, they had a blast doing it.

The children competed in the Frederick County MathCounts Open, an annual competition between county colleges to determine who is the best mathlete of all.

Joe Daly is the school district‘s program coordinator, as well as the host school team coach. He said the open – and the clubs that participate in it – are a great way for students to get both a taste of the competition and a boost in their math skills.

“These are the students who are ready to enter this math competition and just want to improve in math,” he said. “They will meet in clubs once a week at their schools, and for the open, anyone who wants to compete can compete.”

MathCounts is a national competition in which teams progress through regional and statewide competitions before the top teams advance to a national competition to be held in Washington, DC, in May.

The Frederick County Public Schools regional MathCounts competition is currently scheduled for February 12, making Saturday’s opening a more friendly competition.

Daly said the students worked their way through a series of rounds, varying between solo contests and squad clashes. The top point winners then go head-to-head in a competition dubbed the “Countdown,” a “nail-bit” of an exercise, as Daly put it, where students are faced with math and math problems. ‘have only 45 seconds to buzz. with an answer.

According to Daly, many students who participate in MathCounts pursue even more complex math when they get to high school and beyond.

“They are the ones who will eventually become our engineers; they will take advanced math courses in high school,” he said. “And that was our peak this year, with 150 participants. Normally we have about 110.”

Daly said 12 of the county’s 13 public middle schools have sent competitors outside. But it was the Urbana middle school that was the most successful, with the middle school team placing first overall and the three best earners in the competition coming from the school.

Victor Wang from Urbana won the countdown and was the most points total, followed by his fellow students from Urbana, Praneel Pandit and Mihir Kumar.

After the competition Wang, a seventh grader at Urbana, said he was proud to have been able to achieve victory in his first competition with MathCounts.

“It’s awesome,” he said before talking about his love of math. “I think it’s very important for future generations to understand, instead of thinking, ‘Oh, calculators solve everything.'”

Wang suggested that any student interested in participating in MathCounts get a specialized workbook to practice the type of problems they will be working on. led him to victory.

Urbana was led, in part, to her victory by her high school coaching team, consisting of Charles Bai, Alex Zheng, Abhi Senthilkumar and Annie Liu. The students at Urbana High School are alumni of the MathCounts program themselves, and they were eager to get back to working with the college kids after seeing coaches of the past do the same for them.

The coaches said the success of the Urbana Middle School team comes down to hard work and dedication.

“It’s really good that our hard work has paid off, especially with the dedication of our students,” Bai said.

Zheng agreed, after giving notes to the middle school students and handing them out bags of gifts he had stashed for them in his backpack.

“It’s great to see so many of them win,” he said. “They’ve been through the whole season and they’ve done a lot of work. I’m sure they’re all super excited to win.”

Follow Patrick Kernan on Twitter: @PatKernan

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