06252018 Headline:

RAHS students sharpen their math skills

AMC examination challenges student’s problem solving ability

By Timothy Wang

Rachel Phuong was one of the top-scorers on the AMC exam among RAHS students.

Rachel Phuong was one of the top-scorers on the AMC exam among RAHS students.

The American Mathematics Competitions (AMC) is a math exam designed to help students improve their mathematical ability and evaluate their skills. On 15 Feb. 2017, twenty RAHS students took the exam.


Junior Izzie Torres participated in the competition and had the highest score of all RAHS participants.


“[It is] basically a large competition to see how well you do on these really difficult precalculus, algebra 2, [and] geometry problems,” said Torres. “It’s also very prestigious; many colleges will ask for your score on the AMC because they want to know how good you are at math, and it’s really representative of your math abilities.”


Torres was the student who first advocated for facilitating the test at RAHS.


“I had a bit of free time on my hand, and so I want to find something else to do, so I went online and started searching math competitions, and I found the AMC,” said Torres, “so I asked Dr. Edge if we could hold it at our school.”


Junior Rachel Phuong, also a top-scorer at RAHS, wanted to participate in the competition to test her math skills.


“I decided to compete because I wanted to see my level, also I wanted to try it out,” said Phuong. “I hadn’t heard of this competition before, so I was really interested in what it offered and kind of what type of questions were on it just because I wanted to test myself and see how well I could do on this new competition.”


RAHS Calculus teacher Dr. Richard Edgerton facilitated bringing the AMC to RAHS by hosting the test in his room.


“We had a couple of meetings where we met to discuss when the test would be held and so forth,” said Edgerton. “[Then] I hosted the meeting after school where the students took the test.”


The exam consists of 25 multiple-choice questions, and students have only 75 minutes to complete them. Most students do not answer every question.


“You get 6 points for every correct answer, 1.5 for every question you leave blank, and 0 for wrong answer,” said Torres, “so it’s better to leave answers blank than to get them wrong.”


To prepare for the competition, Torres tried to get her hands on every piece of practice material she could find.


“They have the test from every year online, and every year there are two different tests, so there are like twenty different tests online. I didn’t get the time to take that many; I only took like five. But basically I took multiple practice tests,” said Torres. “I also looked at some practice problems on Khan Academy; they have [some problems] under ‘Math for Fun and Glory.’”


Despite being the top scorer of all the RAHS students, Torres was not able to qualify for the next round of math tests, which is the American Invitational Mathematical Examination (AIME).


“No one in the school qualified. There’s the AIME, and that would be what you would go on to if you did qualify. You have [to] earn a score of pretty much at least 92 out of 150 to move on, and the highest score from our school was in the 80s ,” said Torres. “So no one qualified, but next year I’m hoping on taking it again and maybe practice over the summer so that I can qualify.”


Edgerton believes that success on the AMC requires early and consistent practice.
“If people want to participate next year, now’s the time to start preparing because, again, the questions are very different [from normal math class questions], and so preparing early on is a very good idea,” said Edgerton. “Looking at really novel [sorts] of problems that are actually more like puzzles than problems, they provide a very different way for approaching something.”

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