In a climactic finale, Edward Wan, a 7th grader from Bellevue, Wash., took home first place in an elite national math competition here yesterday. He beat out 223 other middle school students who were selected from a pool of about 100,000 state and local competitors.
The MathCounts Competition Series has been around for more than 30 years. Students compete in both written and face-to-face challenges through their local chapters. Of the students who make it to the national competition, just 12 compete in the final Countdown round, in which they are seeded (a la a basketball bracket system) and go head-to-head until a winner is declared.
The scene at Countdown yesterday was alternately pin-drop quiet and very raucous. Parents sat on the edge of their chairs while students on stage rushed to solve complex problems and buzz in before their opponent. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause (with the help of blow-up thunder sticks) each time a right answer was given.
In the final round, Wan went up against 6th grader Luke Robitaille of Euless, Texas.
The host, MathCounts Executive Director Lou DiGioia, posed the problem: “Guiseppe was born in July. Some time in 2016, his age in weeks will be equal to the four-digit year in which he was born. Assuming a 52-week year, in what year was Guiseppe born?”
Wan buzzed in first and answered 1977. That was incorrect. Robitaille answered 1976—also wrong. (The answer was 1978.)
Digioia went on to another question: “What is the remainder when 999,999,999 is divided by 32?”
Wan buzzed in within seconds and answered correctly—31. He will receive a $20,000 college scholarship and a trip to U.S. Space Camp.
The event was livestreamed on ESPN3.
Image: Edward Wan, left, a 7th-grader at Lakeside Middle School in Bellevue, Wash., studies a question during the final round against Luke Robitaille, a home-schooled student from Euless, Texas, as students compete in the one-on-one countdown round of the Raytheon Mathcounts National Competition in Washington on May 9. — T.J. Kirkpatrick/Redux for Education Week
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.