By Alexander Kvitsinski

On Sunday, November 4th, Orange County Math Circle (OCMC) held its Thanksgiving math tournament from 12:30-4:30PM at Sage Hill School. An annual event, the Thanksgiving Tournament invites students in grades 3-6 to participate in a three-round math tournament.

Modelled after the popular MATHCOUNTS tournament, the Thanksgiving Tournament includes similar individual and team trounds, with awards for the top six individuals and the top two teams in each grade. Yet, what makes the Thanksgiving Tournament special is its activity round— a fun, math-based game round meant to further engage and entertain the younger audience.

“The tournament stimulates kids’ minds, it gives them a competitive spirit, and my kids love math, so it is a fun time for them. I hope through this tournament my children will grow their continuous love for math and pursue the beautiful subject; if they win something, that’s just icing on the cake,” said Dr. Aakash Ahuja, whose children attended the tournament for the second year in a row.

Each year, Orange County Math Circle also organizes a toy drive, collecting toys to donate to underprivileged communities in Santa Anna throughout the holiday season. Working with the Santa Ana Math Club, OCMC wanted to focus on the meaning of Thanksgiving— appreciating what you have and giving back to those less fortunate.

“OCMC’s mission is to serve those around all of Orange County, so the toy drive began as a way to serve those outside of the immediate Irvine area. This is why we started the Santa Ana Math Circle (SAMC), which takes the toys and distributes them to children in Santa Ana. It warms my heart that we get so many toys each year, and that the tournament can help others outside of those who came to participate today,” said Aliso Niguel High School sophomore and Co-Director of Tournaments Cynthia Qi.

After check-in for the tournament ended at 1PM, the students eagerly rushed into the gymnasium, where emcees Alex Kwon and Kasra Lekan (Sage Hill School, 11th grade; University High School, 11th grade respectively) began the tournament by first asking the audience if they had any jokes to share.

One student responded by asking “Why was the tournament unsuccessful? Because there were too many problems.” Eliciting an eruption of laughter, the joke set a light and enjoyable tone for the tournament. After the tournament, the same student returned saying that there were not, in fact, too many problems, and that she had enjoyed the tournament greatly.

After the introduction, the individual round began. The individual round was comprised of four sets of eight problems each, with a 12-minute time limit per set. After the individual round, a short break was held with an available bake sale. Then, the team round began, where groups of 6 students separated by grade were given 25 minutes to solve 10 problems. Then, the activity round was held, followed by the awards ceremony, where 24 individual awards and 6 group awards were granted.

Overall, countless student volunteers and numerous adult volunteers had to collaborate to organize the tournament, creating everything from each of the different tests, as well as organizing a venue, recruiting volunteers and more. Yet, the hard work paid off, as more than 200 students showed up and had an amazing time.

“One of the challenges we had this year was communicating with schools and securing a venue, but I am very happy we were able to secure Sage Hill School’s amazing facilities. Yet, all of the hard work is worth it when I get to see all of the smiling faces during the tournament itself,” said Crean Lutheran High School senior and OCMC Co-President Pete Hua.

At the end of the tournament, many participants walked away with beaming smiles and had great things to say.

“The problems on the first round were kind of hard, but I had fun and liked being challenged. I am looking forward to other tournaments,” said 3rd grader Shane Ikeuchi. 6th grader Iris Schafer added, “I really liked working with my team during the team round, and will definitely come to the New Year’s Invitational.”

The next tournament will be the New Year's Invitational, which will be held at University High School on January 20, 2019.