Best when it counts
Eighth-grader takes top honors at 2019 MATHCOUNTS Nationals
Quick question. What is the quotient of 5040 divided by the product of its unique prime factors?
Daniel Mai knows.
Mai, 13, an eighth-grader from Acton, Massachusetts, is the new winner of the 2019 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition, held May 11-14 in Orlando, Florida. Mai bested 224 finalists, Mathletes from across the U.S. and its territories, by answering that question.
The answer? 24.
Mai, who said he likes “to look up random facts on Wikipedia” in his spare time, came up with that calculation in just 22.3 seconds. And how did he feel after his big win?
“Very tired,” he said.
That’s natural, said his coach, Josh Frost, who’s in his 19th year at MATHCOUNTS.
“There are a lot of nerves involved in getting to compete at this level,” Frost said. “Daniel works really hard…It’s always a surprise when you win, because there are so many great kids. But it wasn’t a surprise that Daniel won, because he’s so much faster.”
As National Champion, Mai will receive a $20,000 college scholarship and a trip to U.S. Space Camp. He was the second-ranked competitor going into the Countdown Round, based on his written test scores. Eighth-grader Suyash Pandit, 14, of Portland, Oregon, was the Countdown Round Runner-Up. Two semifinalists were both from Virginia: Samuel Wang and Ethan Zhou.
Massachusetts, Mai’s state team, captured first place in the team competition. The Florida state team took second place, and the California team placed third.
The annual Raytheon MATHCOUNTS competition brings together the nation’s highest-achieving math students. It’s a golden opportunity for kids with math talent to show their stuff, according to Frost.
“I think for a lot of kids with this ability, the schools don’t necessarily understand how much math they know,” he said. “They actually understand the math better than their teachers. Professional athletes wouldn’t be satisfied playing Little League for the rest of their lives; that’s what these schools are to these kids in math. So this competition is their chance to really shine.”
The national competition included both a written exam and a live, “bee”-style contest. Middle school Mathletes race against the clock and each other to answer challenging questions. This year, approximately 90,000 students from more than 5,000 schools participated in the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series at the school level.
Taking place 50 years after the first Apollo moon landing, the 2019 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition commemorated the moonshot achievements of yesterday by celebrating the moonshot thinkers of tomorrow.
“The world needs problem-solvers like our national competitors, who embrace challenges and collaborate to achieve what seems impossible,” said Kristen Chandler, executive director of the nonprofit MATHCOUNTS organization.
Raytheon has been the title sponsor of the competition since 2009, and has extended its sponsorship through 2025.