April 19, 2023
Middle School Student Organizes MathCounts Club
Middle School student Anay Sahu ’29 organized a MathCounts Club, one of the most popular math competitions for grades 6-8. He wanted to share his love of math and competition with the other students in the Middle School and emailed his classmates about the idea. Once a week after school on Thursdays, a group of eight met up until the MathCounts competition in February, working on whiteboards and solving problems collectively and independently with the guidance of Middle School math teacher Stacey Tomkeil.
“I want to give the people who love math to get exposure to these kinds of competitions,” Sahu said. “A lot of people like math, but they have not done math competitions and never thought about how to solve problems in different ways. I want to allow people to see what I’ve done for many years and how they like it. If they don’t, that’s fine.”
Sahu is an old hand at math competitions, starting in kindergarten, and he competes multiple times throughout the year. Initially, when he began competing, he admitted he was nervous, but now he is far more comfortable with the events, even if his face gets flushed when he’s solving problems in real time.
“It’s really fun because a lot of the problems are not simple problems,” he said. “A lot of these problems involve critical thinking. ‘How do I use this? What do I know already to solve a different problem that I may not have been exposed to?’’
The Math Counts competition is an all-day affair. In the actual competition, there are four different rounds. Some rounds are done in teams, and others are individual. Not all math competitions are as intensive as Math Counts, and the duration depends on the number of questions and the degree of difficulty. Sahu said his most recent competition held in Rocky Hill was an hour and 15 minutes.
Sahu feels that math is the most useful subject one can learn because other subjects and disciples branch out from it. “From math, you can go into data science, finance, and multiple fields,” he said. “Another useful thing about math is that even if you don’t use the math, you’re critically thinking and can use it in a real-world situation.”
Sahu has a strategy for attacking problems he has not faced before, drawing from the knowledge base he already has. He first looks to see if it is an algebra or geometry problem. If it’s geometry, he cycles through the various theorems he knows. If it’s algebra, he uses various equations to solve the problems. He doesn’t give up even if frustration creeps in when he knows an answer is close to him, but it proves elusive.
“I keep trying. There may be some trick that I haven’t thought of. That happens to me a lot. I’m like, ‘I did not see that before.’ It’s always good to keep trying…I feel really proud when I figure out a problem. ‘Wow, I got this!’ You can surprise yourself.”
Through his involvement with Math Counts, Sahu not only stretches his brain with hard math skills but also develops the soft skills of leadership. He helps his teammates through problems, plans meetings and tasks, and informs them of the competitions. With his maturity, math capability, and organization, Sahu can no doubt prepare your taxes. He’s one to watch.