By Shannon Zhao

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO - In preparation for the upcoming MATHCOUNTS competition, Orange County Math Circle hosted its ninth annual New Year’s Invitational with over 100 middle school participants from schools across Orange County to Los Angeles at St. Margaret's Episcopal School on Saturday, Jan. 14.

The event opened with an introductory slideshow with general information about the competition’s schedule, Code of Conduct, sportsmanship and basic rules. Students were seated at orange or blue tables, designated by grade level—sixth and seventh/eighth respectively. Each table seated four competitors that separated by two diagonally positioned dividers.

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“This [competition] is formatted the exactly the same as MATHCOUNTS to give [the students] practice,” OCMC Director of Tournaments and sophomore Natalie Yee said. “Math tournaments, in general, definitely help them nurture their passion for math [...] They’re both competitive but also fun, which is what I love seeming.”

Opening with the Sprint Round, the first test was an individual round of 30 problems given a time limit of 40 minutes. After the answer sheets were collected by the proctors, the students were granted a 10-minute break during which they could relax, buy food from the bake sale or socialize.

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Returning from their break, students were then reseated for the Target Round: a 24 minute individual test of eight questions. Immediately following this test was the Team Round where each team of four was given 20 minutes to solve 10 problems.

“Doing the team part [was the most difficult],” sixth grade participant Jacob Yee said. “Your teammates wouldn’t listen to you sometimes, but then you [learn to] work together.”

After the preliminary rounds concluded with a 20-minute break, students and parents were ushered into the theater where the Countdown Round would commence. Open only to the top 16 scorers of the preliminary rounds, the Countdown round consisted of several single elimination matches.

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For a given question, each competitor was granted 45 seconds to think but only 3 seconds to answer after ringing the bell—an answer could only be offered after ringing the bell.

The first round was best of 3 while the second was best of 5. The two students that proceeded to the final round were Andrew Pan and Sophie Wu, placing first and second place respectively.

Transitioning into the Awards Ceremony, Yee delivered a ‘Thank You’ speech to the parents, school staff and 26 volunteers that helped make this tournament possible, followed by some brief background about OCMC and Math for Service.

“The tournament promotes math for a lot of different grade levels,” Math Department chair Elizabeth O'Shea said. “It brings together kids from a lot of different schools that all have a common interest [...] in spreading their [passion] for math.”

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Awards Ceremony kicked off with a congratulatory slide of the Countdown honorable mentions, shortly followed by the announcement of the top two competitors. Team awards were also distributed to the first and second place team of each grade level section (sixth and seventh/eighth).

The ceremony closed with the Individual Awards, issued as first to sixth place of each section—first place being taken by Joshua Jang for sixth grade and Andrei Mandelshtam for seventh/eighth grade.

Many with a trophy in hand or medal around their neck, students and their parents slowly diffused out of a theater and into the open common area, congratulating both themselves and their fellow peers along the way.

The next math tournament is the All-Girls Math Tournament on April 1 with registration to open in February. For more information, please visit the OC Math Circle website here.