Siblings Dominate MATHCOUNTS State Championship

Mathcounts team Image by Courtesy
Josh Frost, left, was named the Massachusetts state coach after his middle school team, consisting of Sylvia Lee, Christopher Cheng, Adam Ge and Selena Ge, took first place in the Team Round.

By Brooke Coupal

Siblings Selena and Adam Ge walked into Olney Hall ready to take on the MATHCOUNTS state championship.

“I wasn’t really nervous,” says Selena Ge, a seventh-grade student from Jonas Clarke Middle School in Lexington, Massachusetts. “I prepared well for the competition beforehand.”

For the first time, UMass Lowell served as the battleground for the one-day championship, which is open to middle school students who qualify during chapter competitions. The event, held on March 11, brought in 129 students from 26 Massachusetts schools.

“The best part of hosting this was seeing so many young kids who are enthusiastic about doing math,” says Prof. Ravi Montenegro, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, who helped organize the contest.

The state championship started with the Sprint Round, where students had 40 minutes to finish 30 math problems without a calculator. They then moved on to the Target Round, consisting of four pairs of problems that each had to be completed in six minutes with the assistance of a calculator.

“I like the competition because it tests not only how good you are at math, but also how quickly and accurately you can answer questions,” Adam Ge says.

Selena Ge garnered a perfect score following both individual rounds, securing her the top spot in the competition. 

“Getting a perfect score is very rare. It really is a special accomplishment,” says Josh Frost, a math teacher at Jonas Clarke Middle School and owner of Frost Math, which helped Selena Ge and others prepare for MATHCOUNTS.

Mathcounts Selena Ge Image by Courtesy
Josh Frost poses with seventh-grader Selena Ge, the overall winner of the state championship.

Selena Ge’s brother Adam, an eighth-grade student at Jonas Clarke Middle School, came in second with only one question wrong. Third place went to Nikhil Reddy Byrapuram, an eighth-grader at The Pike School in Andover, Massachusetts, while Christopher Cheng, an eighth-grader at Jonas Clarke Middle School, took home fourth place.

The top four finishers will go on to compete against students from around the country at the MATHCOUNTS national competition in Orlando, Florida, from May 13 to 16. Selena and Adam Ge both made it to nationals last year, where Selena placed first among sixth graders, second among females and 14th overall.

Frost is serving as the state coach for the Massachusetts students at the nationals because his Jonas Clarke Middle School team, consisting of the Ge siblings, Cheng and eighth-grader Sylvia Lee, won the Team Round at the state competition. For that round, teams of four students had 20 minutes to collaboratively complete 10 math problems.

The state championship finished with the Countdown Round, a head-to-head matchup where, like in Jeopardy, students buzz in their answers. This round determines the championship winner at the national level, but at the state level, it is just for fun.

Montenegro, who competed in MATHCOUNTS when he was in middle school, says the students gain more from the competition than just problem-solving skills; they also immerse themselves in a community of people with similar interests.

“MATHCOUNTS was my first experience being around kids who shared my enthusiasm for math,” he recalls. “I consider this event to have been a success if even a few of the 129 kids who came to UML went home with the same excitement that I had after participating in MATHCOUNTS.”

The state championship is set to be held at UMass Lowell again next year after John Hayden, the MATHCOUNTS Massachusetts state coordinator, called this year “a complete success.”

“Ravi Montenegro and the school’s support were vital to holding the competition,” he says.