MSMS team ranks third at Millsaps math competition


Courtesy of Lauren Zarandona

The MSMS Mu Alpha Theta math team wins third place at math competition.

Madison Echols, Staff Writer

The MSMS Mu Alpha Theta math team — consisting of students Amy Zhang, Richard Zheng, Raeed Kabir, John David “JD” Hagood and Jon Kiesel — placed third at the College High School Mathematics Competition held Nov. 6 at Millsaps College in Jackson.

The competition first consisted of two individual tests: a ciphering test, with 10 problems and three minutes for each, and a written test, with 20 problems to answer within 90 minutes. The team competition came next, and teammates worked together to answer five challenging math problems within 60 minutes.

Lauren Zarandona, MSMS Mu Alpha Theta sponsor, said the competitors went into the competition somewhat blind.

“Not much was prepared,” Zarandona said. “Some individuals were able to look through the problems that were posted, but I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure we 100% knew what we were getting into in terms of just the entire day … it was clear that we have not practiced a ton of competition type math.”

Along with the lack of preparation, the format of the competition and number of MSMS students competing presented its own challenges during the competition.

Zhang, who serves as Mu Alpha Theta president, said the number of students representing MSMS was less than the number who could have competed.

“Originally we had eight people sign up, but unfortunately, due to other external factors, three of them ended up not going,” Zhang said. “If those three had gone, we would have had two full teams, but one person had to be on a team by himself.”

Zheng said the lack of two full teams, four people to each, put them at a disadvantage.

“The team questions are really hard because they assume you would have more team members to discuss with,” Zheng said. “Team scores are also based cumulatively and not by average, so it heavily disadvantages one person teams.”

Despite the disadvantages, the MSMS students pulled through and came out representing MSMS well; however, Zarandona and the students said the math competition offered them more than just a third-place title.

Hagood said he was appreciative of the opportunity for an in-person competition, compared to a virtual one.

“I was really glad to finally do [a math competition] in person,” Hagood said. “You can really feel the vibe of everyone scrambling to get the answers.”

Zarandona said math competitions are valuable for the challenges they present.

“Math contests are about: What could you try next? What can you think of next? Oh, you failed at that. Why did you fail? How can we change this so that you don’t fail again?… And I think that you really need those opportunities,” Zarandona said. “And so I’d say, if you’re intimidated, that’s kind of great, because I think that’s exactly what we’re there for, to help you get over that intimidation, and hopefully eventually find some success on things even if it takes a little while to get there.”