Senior takes second in math competition

February 2, 2009 — by Tiffany Tung and Melody Zhang

Known for previously being the third fastest Rubik’s cuber in the world and for continuously succeeding in math competitions, senior Andy Tsao took home second place for the Santa Clara Valley Math Association (SCVMA) Senior Olympiad on Dec. 13, winning a trophy and a book as a
prize.

Although it is one of the lesser-known competitions, Tsao is still a widely recognized math competitor, having qualified for the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO) in his junior year along with sophomores Brian Wei, Albert Gu and Amol Aggarwal and senior Aaron Garg. This is a large number, considering most schools do not have more than one qualifier on a consistent basis.

Open to only seniors, the 90-minute SCVMA test consisted of about 30 questions covering pre-calculus topics. Tsao felt that the test was not especially challenging but ran out of time to check his answers and lost first place to Lynbrook contestant Patricia Li, albeit by only three points.

Having a rare, deep interest in math originally instilled by his parents, Tsao prefers to concentrate on other more significant math competitions and looks forward to a future in math.

“It wasn’t one of the important math competitions,” said Tsao, who said he didn’t feel pressured. “I did it just for fun. I originally did not want to go, because college decisions were coming out that weekend, but since I didn’t have a legitimate reason to not attend and everyone else did, Mr. Yim asked me to go.”

According to Math Club adviser and Math teacher PJ Yim, there are only three contests offered by the SCVMA—Senior Olympiad; Japanese American Citizens League Tokutomi Competition; and Field Day, which is the largest of the three. Tsao, however, is also preparing for tests such as the American Regions Math League and Stanford Math Tournament.

The Math Club prepares constantly for such competitions by meeting weekly to either take on-campus tests or off-campus regional tests. Sometimes there are national exams, namely the American Math Competition (AMC), wherein the top 1 percent scorers are then invited to the American Invitational Mathematics Examinations (AIME). Those with the highest combined scores from AMC and AIME are invited to compete in USAMO and the winners then continue on to International Mathematics Olympiad as representatives of the United States of America.

“I like doing math because I like feeling satisfaction after conquering obstacles and solving problems,” said Tsao. “It makes me feel accomplished.”

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