Let’s Get Mathematical: The Challengers


For many, math may not be an exciting subject, but SMUS seems to have more than its share of avid mathematicians. Math contests bring students from both the Middle and Senior Schools into heated competition, letting them test their mettle outside of the standard curriculum and giving them a chance to calculate under pressure.

In honour of Pi Day (March 14 or 3/14), we have two student perspectives on the joys of math competitions. Below, Jonathan talks about Middle School triumphs, and in another post, seasoned vet Andrew Kang answers some important questions about the allure of number theory.

SMUS Math Stats

  • 46 SMUS students wrote the American Mathematics Contest and two have been invited to write the next level of contests, the American Invitational Mathematics Exam, on April 3rd.
  • One of the 60 students who wrote the Pascal contest (University of Waterloo) earned a perfect score.
  • We had 43 students write the Cayley contest, which is aimed at Grade 10 students.
  • We had 29 students write the Fermat contest, aimed at Grade 11 students.
  • Four Grade 7 students wrote the Math Challengers contest, which is for Grade 8 and 9 students.
  • 17.6% (12) of our Grade 8 students wrote the Pascal contest.
  • 100% participation in the Canadian National Mathematics League contests for Grades 6-8

Math Challenges

Since October of 2012, me and some of my friends have been preparing for the Math Challengers competition, looking through some difficult questions with Mr. Williams every Wednesday. Finally, after months of preparation, we took three five-person teams to Camosun to compete.

Many people could not come, so we ended up having one of our teams with only one person on it! But, my team had the full five people. My team members were Noah, Joshua, Tony and Edward. As a team, we came in first in the city, and Tony came first individually in the city. Subsequently, our school was allowed to send one team to the provincial competition at SFU in Burnaby. I really enjoyed the regional competition, even more than last year.

Last Saturday, the 9th of March, the school’s provincial Math Challengers team left at 5:45 in the morning for SFU. Mr Williams decided to send the top five people in the city to provincials, not simply the winning team. Because of this, I went with Noah and Tony, but also Sage, Theo and Edward, who was our alternate. On the ferry, we ate breakfast as well as did some practice questions to warm up. When we got there, we went into the a massive lecture theatre and started the first part of the contest, the Blitz section.

The Blitz section is a written section, done by yourself, which contains 26 questions to be done in 40 minutes. These questions are very difficult, and are followed by the Bulls-Eye section. This section is more difficult, but you get more time for questions. After both of those parts of the contest, we got some juice and a cookie, but then we had to brave the contest again in the final written part, the co-op contest. Our team worked together to complete 15 extremely difficult questions in 36 minutes with the use of a calculator.

Editor’s note: While the provincial results aren’t officially in, Mr. Williams reports that the SMUS group seemed to find some questions easier than practice ones and that there was much chatter over the questions, which shows that whatever their scores, the trip was a winning experience.