On November 19, The Haverford School hosted the first annual Philadelphia Independent School Math Olympiad. Sixteen Haverford representatives competed on two teams, and the top team made it to the final round before coming up short in a 10-9 loss to Episcopal Academy.
Leading the pack was Fifth Former Gary Gao, both the points leader for the competition and one of the best mathematicians at Haverford.
“The atmosphere was good because everyone was focusing on the problems and working hard to compete with each other.”Gary Gao ’21
“I think it was a fun experience because we invited a lot of teams from a lot of schools so that we could compete live,” Gao said. “The atmosphere was good because everyone was focusing on the problems and working hard to compete with each other.”
Gao found the atmosphere’s live aspect to be most exciting since he could actually see and hear what his opponents were doing.
Upper School mathematics teacher Mr. Nathan Bridge said, “The Olympiad was a success, first and foremost, because all the students in the space increased their enjoyment and their engagement with mathematics. Everyone walked away from that room wanting to do that again.”
With this success, however, a few critiques remain. “Personally I don’t prefer the 15-minute ones [rounds],” Gao said, “but because we had to finish it in the morning, and there were a lot of teams, we had to shorten it.”
Gao also found the five problems every round too repetitive, and he wished the competition included problems that involved proving certain concepts or other mathematical ideas, instead of just questions with one numerical value as an answer.
“I wouldn’t say they [the problems] were that easy,” Gao said. “It was somewhat challenging, and obviously, nobody got everything correct. In terms of average level, I think it was a good difficulty for all the contestants.”
While content with the team’s performance, Gao wishes there was more preparation leading up to the event.
“We need more training because this year we started the club very late. Before the Olympiad, we only had two or three actual club periods. Just doing those [Math Madness problems] in the morning isn’t really training as we have to talk about the problem, talk about the concept.”
Mr. Bridge admires Gao’s passion. “What impresses me the most is his disposition, his attitude towards mathematics and his wanting to bring other students into the fold. The thing that stands out about Gary is that he sees that [the Math Club] space as one where they want to bring in younger students and help to develop them,” Mr. Bridge said.
Gao thinks younger students or newcomers might want to get involved in the Olympiad and the Club in general.
“Just try it and see if you like it or not,” Gao said. “Because you might not know if this is something you enjoy.”