Charles Bai likes math because there’s always a right answer. One plus one will always equal two.
Charles was one of about 108 middle school students from 14 Frederick County schools gathered in the media center and cafeteria at Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School on Saturday to compete in the MathCounts regional.
MathCounts is a national competition wherein individual students and student teams answer questions about subjects like geometry, probability and number theory during four separate rounds. The top 30 participants and top four teams will progress to the state competition.
This year Frederick Christian Homeschoolers was the top team, with Urbana Middle School, Walkersville Middle School and Windsor Knolls Middle School coming in second, third and fourth, respectively.
The top four students were Rohit Chintala from Urbana Middle School, Eamonn Flynn from Frederick Christian Homeschoolers, Luke Mullikin from Frederick Christian Homeschoolers and Daniel Wang from Monocacy Middle School.
The event was organized by the Frederick Chapter of the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers.
Charles has been competing in MathCounts since sixth grade and said he wasn’t too nervous throughout the day.
“My favorite part of the competition would just be I get to do math with my friends who also like math,” Charles said. “And the speed round’s really fun.”
MathCounts has four rounds. The first is completed without calculators and students must answer 30 questions in 40 minutes. During the second round, students have 8 problems given in pairs with six minutes for each pair.
The third round is the team round, and groups of four students compete to answer problems.
Next comes the speed round. About the top 16 students face one another head-to-head and have 45 seconds to answer each question.
Juniors Helen Chen, Eileen Zheng and Emma Liu are all coaches for MathCounts at Urbana Middle School.
They all participated in the competition in sixth, seventh and eighth grade.
Helen said the questions in MathCounts helped prepare her for math in high school, where she can complete both basic and complex problems quickly.
Eileen said the students they coach are really smart and her favorite thing about coaching MathCounts is being able to interact with them.
“My friends and I aren’t really athletic so it was fun competing on a team where we could all have the same thing,” she said, speaking about why it’s important for young people to participate in events like this one.
The Urbana Middle School team practices once a week after school for an hour and a half. Emma said not everyone involved already loves math but that the competition can foster a love of the subject, even if people joined because their parents wanted them to.
“I think it’s very easy, especially with how our society views math, to just kind of fall into that pit where everyone thinks they’re bad at math so no one goes near [it],” Emma said. “Being forced to participate in this kind of club where you’re competing against other people, you have that incentive to do well and then people put more effort into it and they find, you know, math isn’t that bad.”
Forbes Chinwendu, an 8th grader at Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School, said he really loves math, thinking and using numbers.
“Math can be used for anywhere in your life,” he said.
Forbes said the competition was hard but that he enjoys the round that starts off easy and gets progressively harder because it allows him to set a new goal for himself.
He said math brings people together.
“Everybody here is kind of above regular math and so you kind of can relate to most of the people here and we all share a favorite kind of subject,” Forbes said.
Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hannah_himes.