Keeping up with the Kumars: senior-freshman siblings pursue competitive math

November 28, 2017 — by Sherrie Shen and Kyle Wang

Math club co-president prepares to grduate by passing techniques down to brother.

Students who spend their Tuesday lunches in math teacher Andrew Shoemaker’s room are often greeted with a familiar sight: Toga Math Club co-president Rahul Kumar helping members with questions. In a corner, freshman Rohan Kumar — his brother and fellow mathlete — works on problem sets with another group of teammates.

Rahul, now a senior, started competitive math in ninth grade, when he joined Toga Math Club. Instead of attending contest prep classes, he self-studied from “Art of Problem Solving” books. Rahul began coaching as part of the Toga Junior Math Club (TJMC) coaching staff in 10th grade, a group of 17 Saratoga High students who teach Redwood Middle Schoolers competitive math.

Among the many students he has coached either directly or indirectly as a math club coach is his younger brother, Rohan.

Since former math club adviser P.J. Yim discouraged students from coaching other family members, Rahul has more often given Rohan indirect instruction since Rohan was in middle school.

“He makes me do x amount of math each week,” Rohan said, “forcing me to spend my time more efficiently so I can do more fun things later.”

Rohan believes that Rahul’s coaching has taught him “an approach to life that is widely applicable to any subject” — from speech and debate, where Rohan has begun competing in extemporaneous speaking, to math.

In 2016 and 2017, Rahul qualified for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME), a competition only open to the top 2,000 scoring students on the American Mathematics Competition (AMC) 10 and 12 across the U.S. and its territories. Additionally, Rohan also qualified for AIME in 2017.

Though both Kumar brothers plan on continuing competition math, both have branched out. Rohan is currently taking Journalism One and is an active member of speech and debate. And this year, Rahul joined the Science Bowl team, where he specializes in chemistry and math; he is also co-president of the Raising Interest in Science and Engineering (RISE) Club. Rahul does plan to pursue a computer science or engineering major in college, but also hopes to make the most of his last year before moving on to that next step.

“I really enjoy working with my younger brother,” Rahul said. “He’s a person I can always talk to, so I never feel alone. We’ve both learned a lot from each other, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen after I go to college.”

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