The National Mathematics Honor Society Pi Mu Epsilon, the Tech School of Mathematics and the Tech College of Sciences hosted its annual High School Mathematics Competition (HSMC) on Feb. 23.
This year’s HSMC marks the 40th competition since its inception by the Georgia Tech Math Club and the 5th hosted by Pi Mu Epsilon.
Competitors last Saturday included over 350 students from more than 75 different schools, some in state and some out of state.
“[HMSC] happens every year, and it’s to give away scholarships to students who want to go to Georgia Tech. There are three competitions–the multiple choice, the ciphering and the proof. Whoever the finalists are in the multiple choice [section] move on to the proof, and are considered for the scholarship,” said Kathy Robinson, a second-year Applied Mathematics major.
The students began the competition’s events at the Instructional Center on Saturday morning. Participants, parents and volunteers were treated to breakfast and then divided up between competitions and Q&A sessions with Tech professors. Competitions were divided into the junior varsity and varsity levels.
Students completed a 20-question multiple-choice test in ninety minutes. From there, the tests were scored and semifinalists were invited to participate in the second round of the tournament for ciphering, a 10-question round that counts toward both team and individual scores. The top 50 participants of all the competitions then competed in the proof-based exam, a five-question long exam completed individually.
“The subject areas attached [to the test are] basically [what students] understand with high school mathematics, but problems require multiple steps and require no college calculus,” said mathematics professor Tom Morley.
Morley and another professor edited all questions for the tournament, which were mainly written by members of Pi Mu Epsilon.
“There are some problems that are difficult that they should be able to do. What some of these 8th graders are doing is way beyond what [many] Tech students were doing in 8th grade,” said Cindy Phillips, a fourth-year Applied Mathematics major.
While the competition is mainly focused on the students, Pi Mu Epsilon also takes parents into consideration. The coaches and parents who attend the competition have the option to do the same exams their children do.
Otherwise, Tech mathematics professors and faculty members talk to the parents about the programs at Tech and the Institute itself in a separate waiting room.
“We have probably 10 or 15 faculty members who are hanging out here today to talk to the students, grade the tests, and give rewards,” said Mitch Keller, a Math Ph.D. student.
“That’s my job. I sort of just hang out and talk to the parents…I’m always excited to see how many bright students there are, and the children which come here,” said Michael Loss, a Mathematics professor.
In addition to exams and competitions, the event also gives students an opportunity to explore Tech and the more relaxed side of campus life. Afternoon activities include outdoor and indoor games such as soccer, chess, football and Frisbee, campus tours and a comedy show.
Organizers made an effort to keep the participants busy, scheduling fun activities in between events.
“I added a new contest this afternoon, and it’s nine stations that people can go around. It’s something for students who are not in the proof test. It’s something for students not to get discouraged,” Phillips said.
While Pi Mu Epsilon has successfully organized the event for five years now, the organization is still looking for more help for HSMCs to come.
“We really need volunteers to help organize this because you see the students [are] graduating, and what we really need [are] students to come in and help [with] the competition,” Loss said.
“I really enjoy it, and it’s great to see all these high school students on campus and how they enjoy the competition,” Keller said.