Panthers of ISKL #184: The Mathletes

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Congratulations to Grade 11 students Grant W. (‘25), Louis M. (‘25), Leo S. (‘25), Shixiao H. (‘25), and Zhanya H. (‘25), whose varsity team have consistently won first place in a series of HighFour Math Competitions this semester.

The HighFour Competition online platform hosts monthly team and individual competitions in various subjects across multiple grade levels.

Here, we talk with two varsity team members, Grant and Louis, about their most challenging moments, proudest achievements, favorite aspects of Math, and advice for future mathletes.

Here are their stories:


POISKL The Mathletes group photo

How did your team get together, and how did you prepare for the HighFour Maths Competition?

Grant: We met in our AP Statistics class with Ms. Andrea Guerra last year. Only seven students in our grade were in that class, and only 3 were part of the Math Club. As we met every other day and shared our passion for math, we got close and ultimately formed a team for the High Four Math Competition.

What was the most challenging part of the Competition?

Grant: The most challenging part of the competition was that it was a concise competition with many questions; we only had 30 minutes to answer 20 questions.

Like many other teams, we had difficulty solving all the questions; however, our team always tried to use the time efficiently and trust the teammate’s work. We allocate each question systematically; Leo and I are assigned a question one by one. When I started with question 1, I solved 4, 7, 10, etc. This leaves us with lots of time because we get much more time per question than solving the whole thing for all of us. We will be competing in about 6~7 more competitions this school year.

Louis: The most challenging part is finishing on time. On problems that appear hard to approach, it takes a lot of time to think through, and the time limit can make it challenging to finish all problems on time, especially when problems require specific knowledge, and we need to know the right approach. We will likely continue to compete in most of the HighFour contests that will be run this year.

As a team, what were you most proud of? What did you feel you accomplished by being in this Competition?

Grant: I am very proud of our team’s relationship in effectively solving problems. Since starting, we have reached 1st place in the High Four competition multiple times and earned a few consecutive titles. This is a direct result of our trust in each other. We first filtered the questions by solving each assigned question, and if the questions were deemed hard, another teammate moved in to solve them. We succeeded by trusting each other’s math, intuition, and arithmetic. I am very proud that we accomplished this.

Louis: Personally, I enjoyed spending time on math problems and working on my problem-solving skills. HighFour gives you problems you would only see in classrooms if it focused more on problem-solving techniques and skills than the content.

Beyond competitions, what aspects of mathematics do you find most fascinating or inspiring? Are there any particular mathematical concepts or fields that you are passionate about?

Grant: My favorite field of mathematics is differential equations in applied linear algebra. In Grade 9, I learned Calculus for my AP Calculus BC exam. With this knowledge, I learned Linear algebra as a part of my AP Physics C Mechanics work. Not only did Physics require my prior knowledge of Calculus, but it also expanded much further. It was the highest level of algebra that I ever worked with, and its complexity caught my attention.

Louis: Mathematics is a vast domain of knowledge. The fascinating aspect of mathematics is that one discovery or advancement in a specific field can lead to progress and applications in many other domains. For example, studying elliptic curves has led to significant advancements in number theory (Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem) and cryptography (used to secure online data).

On the more applied math side, I’m interested in linear algebra, which is used throughout vector calculus; for more pure math-based content, I would like to learn more about abstract algebra and the different algebraic structures, including groups, fields, and lattices.

What is one piece of advice for a student or team who plans to participate in the HighFour Maths Competition or a similar Math competition?

Grant: The HighFour Competition is very fast-paced. If you want to participate in this, find good teammates with whom you can collaborate and communicate easily, and try lots of practice rounds.

For other math competitions, my strongest advice would be to keep your interest in math sharp, as regular classes do not teach you new formulas and interesting arithmetic algorithms. It is up to you to find them and get used to them so that you can apply them to other competitions. To do so, keeping up your interest in math and allotting your time searching and practicing new formulas is essential.

Louis: The most important thing is to do it. Math competitions are very much about people’s experience with it. People are often intimidated by how advanced these things get, but success has to come from giving it a try. I would also advise participating in all available competitions, like the HighFour and AMC…


 

Do you know of any student, teacher, parent, or staff who always have an anecdote to tell, love to share some insights into their passions and interest, or simply is a Panther through and through? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions here.

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