Two weeks ago, two Stratford students from our Sunnyvale Raynor Middle School campus scored high enough on the American Mathematics Competition 10 to be invited to take the American Invitational Mathematics Exam (AIME). This is a first in Stratford's history! We interviewed the students about their experience, preparation, and more.
Overall, how was your experience at the AMC 10? Were you nervous? Excited?
Kanav: My experience at the AMC 10 really was a lot of emotions. On one hand, I was nervous for the competition because I had taken it in seventh grade and knew how difficult it was. I also felt excited because I could take a look at some of those advanced problems, and if I could solve it, it would be awesome. The contest was both funny (I could take it lighter than if I was in 10th grade) and serious (I really have to solve problems). Some questions were easy, encouraging me; others, hard, discouraging me. The AMC 10 is a challenging contest, and I think that just getting through it was like a rollercoaster. I remember rushing through the first 10 problems, and afterwards while doing a cursory review, I saw that I made silly mistakes on some easy problems. Then I proceeded onto the harder problems, where I saw a question pertaining to loci, a geometric concept we had just learned. I got really encouraged seeing this and think I went on a streak, applying so many different concepts from equally many areas. Finally, I slowed down as I approached the dreaded final five problems. I saw a geometric question of a square inscribed in a triangle and tried to solve it. I came up with a vague knowing of the answer, and seeing that only one choice fit my “vague knowing,” I selected that one. That was the end of my problem-solving, and then after reviewing (many, many, many times) and transferring my answers to the ScanTron form, the test was over.
Kevin: I was nervous at the AMC 10 as well as excited, because I wanted to get a good score to get into AIME.
What was the toughest part of the competition?
Kanav: In the real competition, the hardest part was obviously the final problems. Since the AMC 10 covers pre-calculus topics and complex combinatorics, binomial theorem, etc. problems in the end, I really could not understand any of the notation or vocabulary. So, those questions (along with a couple advanced geometry and trigonometry ones) really puzzled me.
If we’re talking like overall experiences in the competition, the hardest and most challenging part would have been the preparation because I had really limited time. I had high school applications that devoured my time in January, so I had only the first days of February to prepare. I had another major math competition on the following Saturday, so the prep time overlapped with the AMC 10. However, despite the challenges of the limited time, I believe I was able to effectively prepare for the competition.
Kevin: Overcoming my nervousness and trying to think was hard.
How did you prepare for the competition?
Kanav: I did not get a chance to prepare much for the competition (as outlined in the previous answer). In the limited time that I had, I was able to practice AMC 10A and 10B past contests from 2007. Over the summer and in cumulative preparation for other contests like the previous AMC 8 and MathCounts, I had also studied Algebra 2 and Trig and competitive math books such as those from the Art of Problem Solving.
Kevin: I worked on many sample AMC 10 tests at home to prepare.
Have you always like math? If not, what changed?
Kanav: Probably since preschool, I have loved math, and since second grade, competitive math. Numbers, shapes, and equations have always appealed to my brain, a kind of inexplicable appeal. However, competitive math has evolved into one of my passions because of the thrill solving problems correctly and quickly that it gives me.
Is math your favorite subject? If not, what is, and why?
Kanav: Relating back to the previous question, math is my favorite subject because all the different branches – from algebra to geometry, from trigonometry to calculus (though I haven’t studied calculus yet) – really interests me and challenges my cognitive skills.
Kevin: Math class is not my favorite class because of its repetitive math solving; however, I do like computers because I enjoy learning how to code and use technology.
Who is your favorite teacher at Stratford and why?
Kanav: My favorite teacher at Stratford this year is Mrs. Reast because while she teaches her geometry lessons, she incorporates some humor and personal stories. It’s a great way to start the day (since I have her 1st period).
Kevin: My favorite teacher at Stratford is Mrs. Reast because she is a cool teacher and talks to many of us during break.
What are you most looking forward to in the next round of competition? What are you nervous about?
Kanav: In the next round of competition, I am looking forward for the chance to compete and the prestigious experience of taking the test. I am nervous about the problems themselves because after taking a couple sample contests, I saw that only the first five or six are within my mathematical capabilities. The other ones are designed for students who know calculus and beyond.
How are you celebrating your achievement (a Stratford first!)?
Kanav: I am celebrating my achievement really by just congratulating myself. I had never expected this, especially in 8th grade. It seemed to be one of those prestigious things that I could keep reaching for, even get within one point, but never get. I think I’m just so excited about this achievement, but I really don’t want or need any material rewards or anything like that. It’s a real honor for this achievement, and I think that’s all I need for now. Perhaps in the future, when I get time, my parents might treat me to something.