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Maths for fun?

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Maths for fun?

While some fly overseas for sports, there are others that fly overseas to compete in... maths. That was an experience for 15 UWC Dover high school students on the final days of school before the half term break.

The World Mathematics Championship (WMC) Qualifiers or SEAMC is an annual three day event involving hundreds of students from various South East Asian schools. These enthusiastic students gather together for various reasons: some hoping to compete in the finals at the prestigious Melbourne University, some hoping to measure up their abilities with talents beyond their school, while others are here for a brand new experience and to establish new friendships. However, they all share something in common- their passion for maths.

Compared to a traditional maths competition where you sit down and fill in an answer card, the WMC is a whole new experience. Upon arrival, many of these math heads are pitted together immediately to collaborate across schools - a terrifying prospect. Of course, some remained within their school groups- but can you form an equation with only plus signs?

The more outgoing students immediately took over and began including everyone, even those who sat in the corner avoiding any and all contact. It was truly a sight to behold, over a hundred teenagers arranging themselves with speed and accuracy, attempting to create a target number in the shortest amount of time.

Forming equations was just the start of collaboration, with six out of the nine rounds competing in teams of three, the competition relies heavily on one’s ability to work within a team. Each of these rounds apply unique aspects of logical thinking and communication; from presenting your team’s math problem on one of the UN sustainable development goals, to having a relay styled series of math problems, or building the optimal galton board; the emphasis on team-work is unparalleled to any other maths competition. There are even two separate awards for the top teams in each category, making this a perfect opportunity to develop one’s teamwork.

For someone who’s new to the maths competition scene or never had an extensive interest in maths, this may seem like the most intimidating event; Imagine sitting alone and having two of your school friends anxiously waiting on you to solve this one seemingly impossible problem as the clock ticks down, the pressure is definitely on. However, the rewards one can receive are endless and the lack of experience is not a reason to hold you back from entering this unique opportunity. Two of Dover’s students, Karen Xinchang Liu and Ikhoon Eom both entered this competition as their first WMC qualifier, yet both of them surpassed the competition and walked away with a gold medal each, as well as invites to partake in the WMC finals in Melbourne University.

As mentioned by Amelia Ying Xin Chong, one of the other new participants from Dover this year: “As someone who hadn’t participated in a mathematics competition before, I found the experience to be one of great enjoyment. Initially I had been pretty nervous about how I would perform in the competition. Yet between the great people, both from our school and other countries, the atmosphere was incredibly supportive even whilst maintaining an element of competitiveness. I can’t deny that I learnt many things, such as how crucial it is to have an optimistic and hopeful view of things, even that which I generally struggle with, but perhaps more importantly I was able to explore and interact with a new community of people who were truly passionate about such a universal topic. It was incredible to see such enthusiastic people come together, and this was what made the event really worthwhile.”

Now if you’re still with me here, let's have a look at our school’s results. In total our 15 individuals accumulated 20 medals as well as 8 students receiving an invite to the Melbourne finals. It truly is a spectacular result indeed (Special mention to Soumyaditya Choudhuri for placing in 3rd place and receiving the black medal). However, we are still far from victory and instead the overall school winner this year goes to UWCSEA East, proving to us just how much more work we need to put in before reclaiming our spot as the winners of 2008- over a decade ago.

With 11 participants out of the 15 this year from Grade 11, there are many spots to open up for next year’s SEAMC team. Whether you are someone who enjoys challenging maths or just someone looking to try a new experience, come along to the mathematics competition club on Thursdays lunchtime for more information.

16 Dec 2019
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