Middle Division students participate in the nationwide American Mathematics Contest 8

Emily Salzhauer, Staff Writer

All seventh and eighth graders, as well as sixth graders who volunteered, took part in the American Mathematics Contest 8 (AMC8) on Monday, January 24. This test challenges all of the math students, regardless of their level, Middle Division (MD) math teacher Tom Petras said. 

Math students schools all over the country take the AMC contest, MD Mathematics Department Chair Quentin Brooks said. “It’s a nationwide contest and the students have the opportunity to solve problems outside the realm of our math curriculum,” he said. “It’s both a challenge and gives students insight to different types of mathematical concepts.”

Students at the school have participated in the AMC8 for many years, Petras said. “We have participated in this contest for as long as I’ve been here,” he said.

Students were assigned to classrooms and took the test with their math classes. The test had 25 multiple choice questions and students had 40 minutes to complete it. All middle schoolers take the AMC contest each year, so students who completed seventh and sixth grades at the school were already familiar with the structure of the test from years past. 

When the students were made aware of the test, they were given the opportunity to take practice tests online, Brooks said. “Since we received the contest materials so late, the students didn’t have adequate time to prepare. Any student interested could visit the AMC8 website to do practice problems,” he said. Some students studied outside of school, though they were not required to — no math classes prepared. 

In the week before the test, Julia Lourenco (8) chose to prepare for the contest by looking over her notes from years past, even though preparation was not recommended by teachers, she said. “I reviewed the material I learned this year, and some from last year, in order to prepare adequately for the assessment,” she said. Lourenco hoped to place as well as she could given her skill level. 

Although students did no official preparation in their classes, Francesca Finzi (8) studied using online tests before taking the official exam, she said. She used these practice tests mainly so she could get a sense of what would be on the official test. Ultimately, Finzi took two of the online practice tests before taking it in class on Monday, she said. 

On the other hand, Sydney Kurtz (8) did not prepare for the contest, she said. Because there were some topics that students did not know that would show up on the test, Kurtz’s teacher recommended that they use their past knowledge from math classes to complete the test to the best of their ability, she said. 

Kurtz found that the questions varied in difficulty throughout the test, she said. Some of the questions were difficult because the concepts are so different from what she has practiced in classes, she said. One question that Kurtz remembers being especially difficult involved solving a set of equations that included shapes instead of numbers, she said. 

Although the questions on the test were not what she would usually expect, Lourenco did not find the test to be stressful, she said. Lourenco watched the time carefully and was able to finish on time, she said. “I felt relieved that the test went well and proud of how I was able to pace myself.”

Overall, Kurtz is relieved to have finished the test, she said. “I felt happy and glad that it was over.” 

Despite her practice, Finzi still felt that the test was difficult, she said. “I was prepared for it to be hard, which it was, but it was harder than anticipated,” she said. “That being said, it has no implant on our official math grades, so I tried not to think about it too much.”

The MD math teachers will send out students’ answer sheets to the AMC organization, Petras said. Students will move onto the next round of the competition if they performed very well in this week’s test, Petras said. Students who move on will be notified by their teachers, he said. 

Historically, there have been one or two students who move onto the next round each year, Petras said. “If a student does very well, [scoring] a 24 or 25 out of 25, they are invited to participate in the AMC10 with the UD.” Students who place well in the contest will receive a certificate and an announcement at their grade meeting, he said.