Off Campus

Mathletes take fifth at WPI

Representing the school’s mathletes, Victor Chu, Theo Lukin-Yelin, Elisa Tabor (all ’18), and Aurash Vatan ’19 earned fifth place out of 95 schools at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Invitational Math Meet last month, marking the team’s second-best finish ever after last year’s score of third place.

Led by Math Department Head Chip Rollinson, the mathletes each take a season off of sports to spend afternoons expanding their mathematical knowledge and traveling to competitions against other teams in the New England area, Mr. Rollinson said.

For this meet, Mr. Rollinson decided to bring only upperclassmen.

“I looked mostly at older students because they’re going to have the widest range of know-how,” he said. “I picked the four kids who, in the past year or so, have done the best on various math competitions.”

The team practiced by reviewing contests from previous years, studying for 30 minutes each day in the week leading up to the competition and for two hours per night in the final two days.

Victor, Theo, Elisa, Aurash, and Mr. Rollinson left the school for the meet at 7 a.m. on October 17 and arrived an hour later to hear an introductory speech from the competition’s organizer, WPI Professor John Goulet.

The students then began the team and individual tests, which lasted 45 minutes each with a 10-minute break in between. The tests each had 14 questions, where each test constituted one round. The team round questions were notably harder and relied more on finding creative ways to solve the problems, Mr. Rollinson said.

“For one of the problems [that] Victor was especially proud of solving, all you needed, technically, was Algebra II skills,” Mr. Rollinson said. “But you also had to be creative with how to use those skills.”

Theo and Victor answered all 15 questions in the individual round correctly, thus becoming two of the 20 competitors tied for first place. Elisa and Aurash performed well also, missing only two or three questions each, Mr. Rollinson said.

Victor said his favorite part of the meet was getting to work alongside his teammates.

“The team gets to know each other’s style, strengths, and weaknesses,” he said. “During competitions, we collaborate to share our progress and ideas for a problem that may be tricky.”

He added that he also liked the particularly challenging problems in the contest.

“If all of the problems are what I’ve seen before, it’s boring. I call a contest really high quality if a lot of problems are the ones I haven’t seen—this meet had those types of problems.”

The group closed the day with an awards ceremony and arrived back to school at 3 p.m.

Theo said that the competition was a fun experience.

“I liked having to use interesting techniques, shortcuts, and tricks to solve problems—I find [that] to be a really fun and engaging type of math,” he said. “And as a whole, I’m proud of how we did. I think we did well.”

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