Indiana eighth-grader wins MATHCOUNTS Title
Hoosiers also win team competition during math showdown in Boston
A year ago, Kevin Liu was within a millimeter of a monumental victory at the Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Championship.
One right answer stood between him and the title. But his opponent beat him to it by a fraction of a second.
The narrow defeat stayed in Liu's mind and motivated him to qualify again for this year's national competition. And this time, he won it. Liu became the 2015 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Champion by answering the question "How many arithmetic progressions of six increasing terms include the terms 15 and 20?" The answer was 15, and he figured it out in 17.9 seconds, including the time it took to read the question.
"That's what I was preparing for all year," Liu, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Carmel Middle School in Carmel, Indiana, said. "All that work just paid off."
As national champion, Liu will receive the $20,000 Donald G. Weinert College Scholarship and a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
He even went to New York for an appearance on ABC's "Live with Kelly and Michael," going head-to-head with hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan and breezing through another set of word problems to beat his opponents 9 to 0 – even after Strahan's playful attempt to block Liu's view of the screen and cover his hears to keep him from hearing the question.
This year's national competition was the 32rd overall and the seventh with Raytheon as the title sponsor.
It is also the first to be held in Boston, and organizers are tapping into the city's reputation as a world center of technological research and innovation. MATHCOUNTS students will meet past competitors who now attend school or work in the area, and they will take trips to both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum and the Museum of Science.
“Boston is such a stronghold of math talent,” said Lou DiGioia, executive director of MATHCOUNTS. “That’s going to be an element we haven’t had in past competitions. All the successful, talented alumni attending the event this year started out as MATHCOUNTS students themselves. The kids are really going to get a lot out of meeting them, and I think the alumni are going to get a lot out of it, too.”
Students representing all 50 states, Washington, D.C., United States territories and schools that serve the defense and state departments competed. The team from Indiana placed first, followed by the teams from Maryland and Massachusetts.
More than 100,000 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders take part annually in qualifying rounds at the local and state levels. The national competition includes a written round and a game-show style “Countdown Round” where the top 12 students go head-to-head in a race for the right answers.
But just making it to the national competition is a reward in itself, said DiGioia, who competed in MATHCOUNTS when he was in middle school.
“These students spend hours every week going to math practices. They’ve made a commitment to the subject and they want to be the best they can,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of kids participate in MATHCOUNTS programs over the course of the year, and 224 get into the national competition. It’s such an incredible achievement, and our goal is to make them feel like the winners they are.”