National honors add up for school’s elite mathletes

September 26, 2023 — by Jane Lee
Senior Advaith Avadhanam and Class of 2023 alumni Anthony Wang, alongside other gold medalists, pose for a picture at the Math Olympiad Award Ceremony held in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 5.
Saratoga students find joy in competing in USAMO and are awarded with gold medals and honorable mentions, along with invitations to MOP.

Roughly 500 high-achieving math students nationwide took the high-stakes 4.5-hour, proof-based US Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) and US Junior Mathematical Olympiad (USAJMO) tests last  March.

Among those who qualified for the USAMO were several current or former students: seniors Advaith Avadhanam, Victoria Hu and Nikhil Mathihalli as well as Class of 2023 alumni Nilay Mishra and Anthony Wang, both now freshmen at MIT. 

A similar competition, the USAJMO, — aims to provide similar opportunities to the most elite underclassmen in mathematics. Qualifying for SHS were freshmen Andy Lu and Vivian Zhong, sophomore Lawson Wang and juniors Ishani Agarwal, Alan Lu and Skyler Mao.

 Qualifiers were determined out of a pool of thousands of participants by their scores on two other math exams, the American Math Competition (AMC) 10/12 and American Invitational Math Exam (AIME). 

Competitors who score exceptionally well were then invited to the Mathematical Olympiad Program (MOP), a 3-week summer intensive at Carnegie Mellon University, where six students are selected to represent the United States in the International Math Olympiad (IMO).

SHS is the only school in the nation to have two gold medalists in the USAMO competition: Avadhanam and Wang both scored within the top 6% of USAMO takers, placing them among roughly the top 14 contestants in the nation. In addition, Hu and Mishra won honorable mentions. 

Many of the students who take this test, including Avadhanam, have prepared for math competitions throughout their teenage years.

“I started math competitions in sixth grade,” Avadhanam said. “I had always liked math previously and had fun doing it, but my parents gave me the initial nudge by getting me a competitive math book.” 

He has since progressed to compete at an elite level alongside other International Olympiad hopefuls. Due to his gold medal this year, Avadhanam qualified for MOP and also attended the Math Olympiad Award Ceremony (MOAC) in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 5, which honors the national teams representing the U.S. at various international contests and USAMO gold medalists. During his time there, he enjoyed spending time with fellow gold medalists and getting to know them better. 

However, he has higher dreams for himself, with a goal of making it to the top six to represent the U.S. in the International Math Olympiad. 

“Last year, I barely missed, so I definitely hope to make IMO this year,” he said. “Mainly, I just need to make strategic-type improvements. I think it’s very much the test day that can make or break you.”

Mishra has also been involved in math competitions since middle school, and his parents also run Random Math, a tutoring business training students in competition math.

Throughout his competition career, Mishra has taken the AMC test series around 20 times, and the AIME seven or eight times. As a result, he has learned to control his nerves and know what to expect going in, especially after the first couple of years.

“In high school, probably past ninth grade, I wasn’t really stressed because I was somewhat confident that I would qualify for Olympiads at that point,” Mishra said. “In middle school, I used to be more nervous before the test and sometimes I would take the day off from school to just calm myself down.”

Although two SHS students received gold medals, Mishra does not believe this directly correlates to the school.

“[The qualification] doesn’t tell you too much beyond those particular individuals — that Anthony and Advaith are hardworking people and they spent a lot of time on preparation,” Mishra said. 

Ultimately, Mishra’s strong connection to math has led him to appreciate the subject both through competitions and in school.

“There’s a lot of beauty in math, especially when you get to the higher levels,” Mishra said. “I think it’s really engaging to work through a tough problem and see the light at the end — that this is the brilliant solution.”

31 views this week