Math club takes first place in national online team contest

50 students sprawled across the floor of Misael Fisico’s cramped classroom, each intently staring at their laptop screens. The only sounds were the heavy scratching of pencil on paper, the occasional clack of the keyboard, or enthused whispers. Students glanced at the clock from time to time, hoping they had not lost their chance to win for their school.

Such was the atmosphere of the Math club throughout the month-long Interstellar math competition. After defeating 64 other schools, the Math club made school history by winning first place in the national contest.

Interstellar, a web application created by the Mathematical Association of America, is an online math competition comprising of four weekly rounds of “matches,” each lasting 30 minutes and consisting of 10 questions in a round-robin format. During these “matches,” students from different schools must work individually on the given set of questions, which are based on topics ranging from geometry to combinatorics. The top five scores of a school’s participating students are then compared to those of other schools, and thus the advancing team is determined for each round.

The Math Club decided to participate in Interstellar’s first event due to the unique format of the contest and their prior qualifications with American Mathematics Competition.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on Jan. 27, 2014.

“We were hooked because of round-robin format of the contest. Also, we got a telephone invitation because we always place in the AMC,” said Misael Fisico, advisor of the Math Club.

After the preliminary round, the Math Club became one of 64 teams with the highest score averages throughout the four weekly “matches,” and was placed in the first division. The second set of 64 teams was placed in the second division, and so on. Among these 64 teams, the Math Club made it to the finals and competed against against the Academy for the Advance of Science/Technology from New Jersey, winning by .2 points over their competitors.

“When we were discussing our plans, we had to decide what competitions we wanted to do. We thought Interstellar would be interesting because it’s unconventional,” said Cindy Liu (11), co-Vice President of the Math Club. “[It] was a challenge at first. We all had to adjust to the types of problems and timing of the contest, as well as the round-robin type setup. We definitely did not expect an easy overall win.”

In the upcoming month, several Math club members are preparing for the American Mathematics competition, American Invitational Mathematics Examination, and United States of America Mathematical Olympiad competitions, all of which start in early February and continue to the spring season.