For the first time, the middle school will compete in the MathCounts States event.
While many middle schoolers dread mathematics, some students at VMS crunch numbers competitively.
Recently, members of the VMS Math Club clinched first place at the South Jersey MathCounts competition, which was held at Rowan University on Feb. 3. In the chapter competition, the top individual prize was also awarded to a VMS student and team captain, Vikram Meyyappan.
VMS competed against 21 schools from across South Jersey, dominating the stage during the Countdown round, in which only 10 out of 160 individuals qualified throughout the competition.
Four students who demonstrated the best results at the school level constituted the school team, and six more participated as individuals.
The success demonstrated that afternoon has led to VMS’ participation in the South Jersey State Competition scheduled for March 10. This is the first time the school has reached this level since starting its participation in MathCounts four years ago.
Although the competition encompassed an assortment of arithmetic such as geometry, probability and algebra, the teammates say the biggest intimidation is the ticking clock.
In preparation, the team revisited practice tests from previous MathCounts competitions during weekly math club meetings where they fostered their timeliness.
“I think it was about completing all the problems on time,” said eighth grader Claire Sklar, who advanced to the Countdown round. “They weren’t that challenging this year, but it was about getting them all done and correct.”
The competition consisted of three written rounds — one team and two individual.
In the sprint round, 30 problems had to be finished in 40 minutes. Then, the target round presented eight problems in pairs of two, and for each pair, contestants had six minutes to complete.
In the team round, the top four contestants from each school had to complete 10 problems in 20 minutes. Finally, the top 10 individuals from the whole competition faced off in the Countdown, which entailed questions that were designed to be answered in 45 seconds.
“It was all time management and nerves,” added eighth grader Kartik Vijayapuri, who made the top four group. “The problems were easy, but time management is what counted.”
For the team, the actual calculations were not nearly as frustrating as comprehending the question at-hand in only a matter of seconds.
In one particularly tricky question, contestants had to find the area of three circles intersected, which created a complex Venn diagram.
“With that problem, it was pretty easy to understand what they were asking. It was just, once you figured out how to solve, it could take awhile,” said eighth grader Ashot Ter-Saakov, who advanced to the Countdown round.
When advancing to the team round, once given the problems, the students assigned questions to one another based on who was in first, second, third or fourth place. But, in the moment, the teammates began trading problems based on everyone’s strengths to more quickly and effectively tackle the tasks.
“You don’t know how the 10 problems are going to be distributed, so it’s a matter of chance,” Meyyappan said.
The team says it was astonished by the end results, as in previous MathCounts years, VMS bounced around second and third place.
The team is pumping its abilities and attitudes acquired during the South Jersey MathCounts into its inaugural states competition.
Even though only the top four VMS teammates from the South Jersey event will compete in states — including Meyyappan, Vijayapuri, Magdalena Bourla and Rachel Boroda — members of the whole team are boosting one another as they prepare to rival students from across New Jersey.
“We’re all proud of each other,” Vijayapuri said. “It’s always nice to see everyone do well.”
Team members included: