A Different Kind of Competition


Catherine Best, Ranger Review Reporter

Wednesday, February 17 saw Rangers filing into the Lecture Hall at Lewis-Palmer High School to participate in an altogether unusual kind of competition. Over one hundred and ten Lewis-Palmer students came to put their math skills to the test in the first round of the annual American Mathematics Competition. For this event, some participants were excused from classes or were using their off periods in order to take part in the prestigious competition.

“Two or three years I’ve taken it, and it’s frustrating but oddly satisfying. I enjoy the challenge and excitement, so I’m participating again this year,” Sara Hartel, 11, explained.

The AMC, as it is commonly referred to, is a prestigious national competition that measures students’ numeric abilities, critical thinking and creative problem solving. Aiming to challenge students to apply pre-calculus concepts, the test is administered in a timed, multiple-choice format on two dates every February. The difficult and unexpected questions have earned the test a notorious reputation among students.

“You start out thinking, ‘yes, I can do this!’ Then by the tenth question, you just feel exhaustion; by the twelfth question, it’s usually ‘I’m done.’ After taking Calc, I looked at the test from last year and felt like I understood some of it and I could do well, but once I tried again this year I knew I still couldn’t do it,” Oriana Ramirez, 12, said.

The AMC 12, as was administered on Wednesday, is the first in a series of tests designed to select contenders who will represent the American math team for an international competition. Those who score highest on this first round are allowed to take part in the American Invitational Examination; the Colorado section of which is administered on Thursday, March 3 at UNC in Greeley. Selection is unlikely; however, only a small portion of the 350,000 who participate nationally continue on to the next round.Typically, Lewis-Palmer performs reasonably well, but has experienced a bit of a dip in the last few attempts.

“At most, we’ve had three go on to the next round in any given year. I don’t think we had any last year,” Erin Bentson, Lewis-Palmer math teacher, said.

For 75 minutes the Lecture Hall remained silent, interrupted only by scratching pencils and occasional pages rustling as the students worked on 25 demanding problems. While some finished in under an hour, most participants used the full time period to complete their tests. Some put forth their best effort to earn class credit, and some were motivated by the idea of selection for the next stage of the USA Mathematical Olympiad. Others simply wished to measure their own growth and success against previous years’ scores.

“You can’t prepare for it, and it isn’t something that you should really base too many hopes on. You never know what you’re going to get, you never know how the problems will be, you just have to kind of wait and see,” Ramirez said.

For now, there is nothing that students can do, but wait for their for their score to be posted in the next few weeks and hope that their skills were up to par.