Students await results of international math competition

    A team of four Palo Alto High School juniors is awaiting its scores after completing a solution for the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge contest in late April as representatives of the United States.

    Palo Alto High School teacher Radu Toma and juniors Allison Zhang, Kathryn Li, Eric Foster and Andrew Lee (left to right) pose in their Advanced Placement Calculus BC class. The team wrote up its solution for the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge competition from April 19 to April 23. Contest results will be out in June. Photo by Lizzie Chun.

    Palo Alto High School teacher Radu Toma and juniors Allison Zhang, Kathryn Li, Eric Foster and Andrew Lee (left to right) pose in their Advanced Placement Calculus BC class. The team wrote up its solution for the International Mathematical Modeling Challenge competition from April 19 to April 23. Toma served as the team’s adviser. Photo by Lizzie Chun.

    Juniors Eric Foster, Andrew Lee, Kathryn Li and Allison Zhang had to solve a real world application problem in a five-day window from mid-April to mid-May. The team submitted its 20 page-long solution at the end of the five days.

    According to the IMMC website, the contest promotes the idea that students and teachers need to “experience the power of mathematics to help better understand, analyze and solve real world problems outside of mathematics itself — and to do so in realistic contexts.”

    After receiving the top score in the nation for its 33 page-long solution at a national mathematical modeling contest earlier this year, the team was selected to represent the U.S. at the international level. Teams from eight other countries are also participating in the IMMC.

    Foster noted that the team’s experience with the national High School Mathematical Contest in Modeling competition improved its efficiency for the IMMC.

    “All of us brought something different to the table for the IMMC,” Foster said. “Since the HiMCM, … we learned how to better put those strengths and weaknesses to work when we were writing. Instead of having everyone do 25 percent of everything, we specialized a little more, and we saw how much that can help when you’re trying to do something as a team.”

    Li said that the international aspect of the IMMC served as motivation for the team.

    “The fact that this was an international competition definitely pushed us to produce a more complete report,” Li said. “There were sections in our previous paper that were hastily put together, and since we had a longer work period, we tried to flesh out our ideas as much as possible within the 20-page limit.”

    Li emphasized that the competition tested more than the team’s ability to solve a math problem.

    “As much as this was a math competition, it was also a test to see how well you could explain your ideas,” Li said. “I feel that my expository writing skills have also improved as a result of this competition.”

    The three possible levels of recognition for the competition in ascending order are Honorable Mention, Meritorious and Outstanding. Teams who receive Outstanding awards will have their solutions published. While Foster says the team hopes to do well, he is happy to have already made it this far.

    “Since the IMMC is completely international and we’re literally competing against the entire world, our expectations aren’t especially high, but just being ranked next to teams from around the world – even if our names are below everyone else’s – is really exciting,” Foster said. “It would be really exciting if they rank our work as Outstanding, but even if we just get Honorable Mention, it’s enough just to have gotten here, and none of us would be too disappointed.”

    The results of the competition will be released in June, according to the IMMC website.

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