Students advance to second round of UMD math competition


Graphic by Charlotte Alden.

By Andie Silverman

As the second and final round of the 38th annual University of Maryland math competition commenced Dec. 1, four Whitman students sat in principal Alan Goodwin’s office attempting to recall nearly every math concept they’ve learned.

Sophomore Kaiyu Qin, juniors Joshua Engels and Luxman Maheswaran and senior Xuan Han were the Whitman students that advanced to the second round.

The students were vying for cash prizes and a full scholarship to UMD awarded to the top three competitors.

The first part of the competition took place in the auditorium Oct. 26 and was open to all Whitman students. This section consisted of 25 multiple choice questions and lasted 75 minutes. For every correct answer, four points were awarded and for every incorrect answer, two points were deducted. Students who received a 46 or above advanced to the final round. The final round consisted of five free-response problems, worth 150 points in total, to be completed in two hours. The three students with the highest score from part one and two combined win.

One of qualifications necessary to be a participant is that students must be enrolled in a Maryland or D.C. high school.  For the first part of the test, 143 Whitman students participated, math teacher Susan Wildstrom said.   

This year’s competition attracted a total of 1,913 students in the first round in Maryland, 224 of which moved on to part two, according to the competition’s website.   

Maheswaran said the second part was noticeably more challenging than the previous one, but both require understanding of mathematics through the calculus level.

“The second part was a lot more serious,” Maheswaran said. “You could definitely feel the confusion in the air.”

Due to the fact that the assessment tests on the understanding and implementation of widespread math concepts it is far more challenging, Engels said.

“The test was much different,” he said. “It’s not that it tested specific concepts, but more reasoning and problem solving skills.”

Engels has participated in the math competition since freshman year, and has advanced to the second round both sophomore and junior year.

“I answered two out of five questions and gave educated guesses on two others,” Engels said. “It’s not easy to bluff because you have to explain your reasoning too.”

It’s unlikely that any of the Whitman students will place in the top three because two Blair students received a perfect score in part one, Wildstrom said.

The three winners for the UMD math competition will be announced after winter break which will be followed by a reception honoring those who did well.

“About 40 people in the state of Maryland will be invited to some kind of reception,” Wildstrom said. “It’s to honor the students who have done well, and some years, Whitman has a child in that group.”