7 SHS female mathletes travel to MIT for elite contest

October 21, 2023 — by Jessica Li and Amy Miao
Courtesy of Vivian Zhong
Freshman Vivian Zhong (right) and junior Ishani Agarwal (left) win medals at the MP4G awards ceremony.
Three placed in the top 20.

Of the 250 girls from across the country invited to the annual Math Prize for Girls (MP4G), seven were from SHS and three of them finished in the top 20. 

The contest, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Oct. 8, turned out to be a success for senior Victoria Hu, who finished in 15th place — with her overall score tied for 7th. She was awarded $1,000 for her ranking.

“Since it’s my last year being able to compete in this competition, I felt like it was a really good way to wrap up my contest journey,” Hu said. “I felt a bit of pressure to perform well, so I’m glad that I ended on a high note.”

Along with Hu, freshman Vivian Zhong and junior Ishani Agarwal also made the top 20 leaderboard, with both tying for 19th. 

The school’s representation at the international contest spanned all grade levels — Zhong, sophomore Ella Li, junior Agarwal and seniors Lynn Dai, Hu, Medha Ravi and Nidhi Vadlamudi all attended.

To qualify for MP4G, students had to first apply using scores from last year’s American Mathematics Competitions (AMC 10/12) contests. This year, the cut-off scores were 109.5, 111, 102 and 97.5 for AMC 10A, 10B, 12A and 12B respectively, meaning that roughly the top 250 female applicants were accepted. 

The contest remains a popular option for girls because of its lucrative cash prizes worth up to $50,000 and the opportunity it provides for like-minded girls to meet. The contest serves to inspire girls to follow careers in math.

The 2-day event featured a diverse selection of activities, including Harry Potter-themed math talks during the afternoon on Oct. 7. Later that evening, there was also a game night with catered dining, icebreaker activities, paper crafts and board game tables.

The following day, contestants took the 2.5-hour, 20-question test consisting of problems from four categories — number theory, geometry, combinatorics and algebra. 

Zhong said she entered the testing center confidently, feeling both well prepared and with high ambitions.

“A while back, I realized there wasn’t really any point to worrying about and getting nervous about the test because it’s pretty counterproductive, and I held on to that mindset during the test itself,” she said. “In the end, my placement was super shocking to me because I didn’t think I’d rank that high, but it felt really cool and exciting.”

Zhong prepared for MP4G by completing mock exams with friends and attending competitive math training programs such as G2 to introduce herself to advanced Olympiad topics.

However, experiencing high-level competition was only the beginning of what imprints Zhong took away from MP4G. In addition to an immersive math experience, she got the opportunity to meet and form friendships with mathletes she has admired for years.

“I’ve always wanted to meet my role models like Hannah Fox, who was the only USAJMO gold receiver to achieve a perfect score on the test last year,” Zhong said. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to be friends with her personally and be surrounded by a group of like-minded girls in an environment where I’m not judged and feel like I belong.”

Tags: contest, MIT
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