Sitting in a classroom in Morse Hall, Annie Zhu ’17 furiously worked through 25 math problems on the American Math Competition (AMC)-10 exam on February 3. Zhu was one of six students in the entire country to receive a perfect score on the test.
Hoping to qualify for the American Invitational Math Examination (AIME), Zhu took the exam for the third time after receiving 139.5 out of 150 both times on her first two exams. In order to qualify for the AIME, Zhu had to score in the top 2.5 percent of all AMC-10 scores.
“The AMC-10 is a big math competition for the school because people take it into account for future competitions. It is a basis for others to judge your math level,” said Zhu in an interview with The Phillipian.
Zhu spends one to two hours per day working on problems and developing her skills. In addition, she takes Math 595 (AP BC Calculus).
Zhu said that her favorite part about math is that problem solving requires a distinct and complex way of thinking.
“I like how [in class] we don’t restrict ourselves to testing material. Our teacher gives us challenging yet inspiring and interesting major assignment problems,” said Zhu.
In the past, Zhu attended math classes outside school near her home in Shanghai to prepare for math examinations and competitions. Since becoming a boarding student, however, she prepares by looking at older problems from past exams and learning their solutions.
“Math is like athletics. You can do it everyday to maintain your level. However, if you didn’t do it for a while, your level will definitely drop,” continued Zhu.
To continue expanding on her skills, Zhu attends Math Club meetings every Wednesday. Advised by Khiem Doba, Instructor in Mathematics, Math Club focuses on working on problems and strategies for competitions.
“I think that Math Club is really comprehensive because we have a very good system. We have [active] board members, and [Doba] attends every meeting. We even have organized extra practices to prepare for math competitions,” said Zhu.
Zhu said that her favorite aspect of math competitions is meeting people who share her passion for math.
“Personally, I am not much of an English or art type of person, so I would say I feel happier when I talk about math with other people,” said Zhu.
The AMC-10 exam challenges students to solve difficult questions using algebra, geometry and pre-calculus concepts. Students already know the concepts tested before the exam.
“That’s what I love about math – it’s a kind of art; you don’t really need hard techniques to solve problems. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it,” said Zhu.
The AMC-10 exam involves a series of 25 multiple-choice questions. For each correct answer, six points are awarded, for a total of 150 points. Ninth and tenth graders can take the AMC-10 exam, and 11th and 12th graders can take the AMC-12 exam.