After taking second place in the Mathcounts state competition last year, Hyde Park Middle School students are hoping to get back to the school’s winning ways.
The school has taken first place every year but twice since 2008. After winning first place at the chapter competition in February, the team hopes to take back the top trophy March 25 at UNLV.
“It’s like the Olympics for mathematics,” said Hyde Park algebra teacher and Mathcounts coach Brandon Lawrence. “The competition is fierce. We call ourselves mathletes because we work just as hard as athletes …”
Mathcounts is a national nonprofit organization that provides math programs for middle school students. The competitions consist of sprint, target and team rounds.
In the sprint round, students have 40 minutes to answer 30 questions without a calculator. During the target round, contestants have six minutes to answer four pairs of problems, and in the team round, four students can work together to answer 10 problems within 20 minutes using a calculator.
Samuel Goodman, 13, who has been on the team for two years, received a perfect individual score at the chapter competition.
“This year’s (chapter) competition was very close,” Goodman said. “It came down to one question (during the team round).” Lawrence said 11 schools participated the chapter round with about 85 students.
Lawrence has coached the Mathcounts team since 2003. He said he treats it like any other competitive activity. He holds tryouts at the beginning of the school year, where he gives a test to narrow the group to 24 students, then to 10. Mathcounts is offered as an elective class and an afterschool club.
“The way we learn and the way Mr. Lawrence teaches us is really effective,” Sanjay Soni, 13, said. “I remember first quarter, I was a lot worse than I am today.”
Ryan Yi, 13, said he wasn’t interested in math until he began taking Lawrence’s Mathcounts elective.
“When I started taking the elective, I got into it more and I slowly climbed myself up the ladder and, eventually, I became top four in the class from, like, 16th,” Yi said.
Although the students credit Lawrence as their source of success, he said their hard work is the main factor.
“These students work so hard and they don’t just stop there,” he said. “They will go home and study the problems.”
The team hopes to make the national competition, where it has sent at least one student to compete since 2009. Each year, four students and one coach from the top schools are selected to represent each state.
Nevada was awarded as the most improved state at the national competition in 2014 and 2015, in which students are evaluated based on their school’s performance in the past 10 years.
“I like sharing my passion of math with people who like math,” Lawrence said. “It’s really cool to see their growth from one year to the next.”
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