MATHCOUNTS to draw almost 100 Hoosier 'mathletes'


Author(s):Tim Brouk and Bill Walker

“Jose has … .“

Those were practically the only words Bill Walker, Director of Purdue Science K-12 Outreach and Co-Director for the Purdue University MathCounts Regional competition, could read before a buzzer went off and one of the 16 top MathCounts middle school students gave the accurate answer to a problem where a young man named Jose was distributing candy.

The problem was flashed on two large screens in front of the students. The answer was figured out in mere seconds after the problem was revealed.

This is typical of the Countdown Round during the annual MathCounts event, sponsored by the Purdue College of Science and the Purdue College of Engineering. The 2014 edition was held all morning and most of the afternoon on Feb. 8. The testing and team competitions were held in Stewart Center while the buzzer-beating Countdown Round and awards ceremony moved over to the Class of 1950 lecture hall on Purdue campus.

While snow fell outside, 77 middle school math wizards from 10 area schools competed in MathCounts. West Lafayette Middle School dominated with top team honors as well as the strongest individual finishes; from first to third, it was Nathan Hu, Konwoo Kim and Ben Shively, all young Red Devils. Ben defeated Nathan in the final round of the Countdown competition.

Ben Shively

Ben Shively won the Countdown Round and second overall at the 2014 MathCounts event.

Dr. Vincent Drnevich, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering and Co-Director for the Purdue University MATHCOUNTS regional competition, has been a part of MathCounts for 20 years. He said it was interesting to see schools that scored low in the past improve. He added that the playing field is more even. More schools and their bright math students have a better chance to shine.

A few students as well as the West Lafayette team will move on to the state competition, set for March 15 at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Then the top state finalists compete in the nationals, which will take place May 9 in Orlando, Fla.

Whether it was fractions, geometry, probability or Jose’s candy, the 2014 MathCounts competitors proved the region’s strength in mathematics education.

Nathan Hu

Nathan Hu won first overall and second in the Challenge Round at MathCounts 2014.

On Feb. 8, Purdue University will host the MATHCOUNTS regional competition in Stewart Center on the West Lafayette Campus. MATHCOUNTS is a national math enrichment and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement across the United States.

After several months of coaching, participating schools select students to compete individually or as part of a team in one of the more than 500 regional competitions held nationwide. Winners at the regional level proceed to state competitions, where the top 4 “mathletes” and top coach earn the right to represent their state or territory at the national level. Indiana students have a history of success in the nationwide competition.  In 2012 Chad Qian of Indianapolis was the MATHCOUNTS National Champion and the Indiana MATHCOUNTS Team finished 18th in the nation.  In 2010 Mark Sellke from West Lafayette was the MATHCOUNTS National Champion and the Indiana Team finished fifth in the nation. 

This year, Purdue will host approximately 90 students from 11 schools. “We are very excited to host 11 schools this year,” said Dr. Vincent Drnevich, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering and Co-Director for the Purdue University MATHCOUNTS regional competition. “It is great to see so many schools and students getting involved in an academic event that emphasizes math concepts, problem solving skills, and teamwork.” 

For 2014, competing schools include Central Middle School, East Tipp Middle School, Happy Hollow Elementary School, Joseph F Tuttle Middle School, Klondike Middle School, Lafayette Tecumseh Junior High School, Lebanon Middle School, Noblesville West Middle School, West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School, Western Middle School and Zionsville Middle School. The Purdue College of Engineering, the Purdue College of Science and the A. A. Potter Chapter of the Indiana Society Professional Engineers collaborate in sponsorship and organization of this event.

“MATHCOUNTS is a great opportunity to see students engaged in an exciting and challenging mathematics competition,” said Bill Walker, Director of Purdue Science K-12 Outreach and Co-Director for the Purdue University MATHCOUNTS Regional competition. “The most exciting parts of the competition include the Team Round where students must work together to solve challenging problems and the Countdown Round where participants compete head-to-head and are eliminated until a champion is determined.”

MATHCOUNTS provides regional, state and national tournaments for students in grades 6 through 8.  These students begin training in the fall to compete in regional competitions in late winter.  Each school team consists of 4 students. Students also have the option of competing as individuals to reach the state finals and become a member of the Indiana team for the national competition. 

MATHCOUNTS is open to the public; please contact Vincent Drnevich or Bill Walker for information about visiting. Different events will take place from 9:00 AM to 2:30 PM. The Countdown Round starts at 1:30 PM at Class of 1950. In this fast-moving event, the top students from the morning competition will compete in answering questions projected onto a screen. Awards follow the Countdown Round and all events conclude around 2:30 PM.

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