Exam Offers Strange Math Perspectives

Genie Lee, Editor

The American Mathematics Competition (AMC), was held on February 15 at 7:45am for students to test their abilities in analytical thinking and mathematics. The AMC is the first of a series of competitions that eventually lead up to the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Math teacher and AMC proctor Nick Schoen described the AMC experience as “humbling for most people.”

Approximately 120 students volunteered to take the 75 minute test, answering 25 word problems spanning the entire high school math curriculum including advanced geometry, trigonometry, and algebra. Freshmen and sophomores took the AMC 10 exam while juniors and seniors took the AMC 12 exam.

Schoen admitted, “It seemed like a lower turnout this year, but I think that might have had to do with a couple teachers forgetting to remind their students.”

Over 6,000 schools across the country host the AMC competition annually. The program debuted back in 1950.

Those who pass the AMC move on to the AIME. According to Schoen, “Every year there are usually 3 or 4 people at Campo that qualify for that next level.”

Sophomore Sharon Yuan was a first time participant in the AMC. “I haven’t really done anything similar to a math or science competition in the past, and I just wanted to try something new,” she said. “I was kind of curious to see what it was about.”

When comparing the AMC test to the ACT Yuan had taken last year, she said, “The ACT was significantly easier because it’s all standardized, and all the questions are at a very basic math level. These problems were hard in that it was difficult to even figure out how to set them up in the first place, which made it significantly more challenging.”

Junior Ray Altenberg took the AMC 12 exam. “The questions generally got successfully harder as you go down the test. A lot of it’s sort of understanding what the problem is asking. They are extremely hard, or at least the later ones are extremely hard. They look like they could be easy but they’re harder than they look initially. They’re not huge equations or anything,” he said.

Schoen added, “The AMC doesn’t have a high level math on it, it just has an interesting way of looking at the problem. You just have to know there is a strange way of looking at problems. I think that kind of expands peoples’ ways of thinking. This test is really just an exposure to say, ‘Oh these were kind of cool, I’d like to know more about that.’ I think it also throws people some curveballs.”

Because students received 1.5 points for leaving an answer blank, many students didn’t put down an answer to the questions they could not solve. Altenberg said, “I left most of the ones I wasn’t confident about blank.”

Yuan said, “I honestly just really wanted to figure out the problems that I wasn’t able to solve during the actual test which was why I took the test booklet home.”

Altenberg said, “It’s a test that’s essentially not going to have a huge barring on you, and it’s not going to hurt you too much if you do badly on it, but it’s sort of interesting to take a really hard test. It’s an experience you take once in your life.”

“I think it gives students the opportunity to explore doing different types of math problems that we don’t typically see on our own tests and to see if they are really interested in pursuing a future in that kind of area,” Yuan said.

Schoen said, “For some students it’s an exposure to a math competition that they have never seen before. I think they just enjoy the challenge and they talk about it afterwards. It definitely brings out the math geek in people, myself included. I usually open the booklet up and try to figure out how to do some of them.”

Altenberg said, “I think the reputation is definitely accurate. It’s a pretty brutal test.”