Jefferson hosts math competition for middle school students


Jefferson students host a math competition for talented middle school students interested in math.

Archis Bhandarkar and Akhil Waghmare

Except for the clitter-clattering of TI-83 buttons and the steady scratching of pencils against paper, a silence pervaded the atmosphere.  To be sure, you can expect such intense concentration at Jefferson’s largest middle school outreach program, the annual TJ Intermediate Math Open (TJIMO).

After all, the stakes were high: only 35 grueling math problems separated the over 200 middle school students who participated in the TJIMO on November 9 from sweet victory and recognition.

“There are those who really want to win, and try their hardest in all stages of the competition,” junior Rishub Jain said. “I believe there is an intense competition between these people, because their primary goal is to win the first place trophy.”

The TJIMO is completely written by students from Jefferson’s own Varsity Math Team. The competition itself was engineered to challenge mathematically-talented Northern Virginia middle school students, representing Rocky Run, Rachel Carson and Longfellow middle schools amongst others. Usually held at Jefferson, the competition took place at Glasgow Middle School due to the renovations.

While the competition itself was challenging for many a middle school math enthusiast, so too was making sure things ran smoothly throughout the day. Running the TJIMO and all its different rounds required the coordinated efforts of the math team officers, student coaches and parent/faculty volunteers.

“It was a rewarding and enjoyable experience to coach middle school students during TJIMO,” junior student coach Sushruth Reddy said. “Although many of the kids were reluctant at first, by the end of the day, everyone had experienced a great deal of fun, including the coaches.”

Despite all the hard work that goes into the competition, the student volunteers enjoyed themselves. Some coaches even learned a thing or two for themselves.

“Having taught math to middle school students, I have discovered that beauty and elegance can truly be found in all levels of mathematics, regardless of one’s current mathematical ability,”  senior student coach Rohan Banerjee said.

Thankfully to all those who pitched in, the TJIMO turned out to be a grand success in the end. Twelve different individual round winners and the top three teams were announced. Eighth grader William Sun from Longfellow was crowned as the top individual scorer.

“When the power went out during the Guts Round, I was initially quite surprised and a bit concerned,” said Banerjee. “However, I knew that the VMT officers and sponsors were capable enough to continue the round regardless of the power failure.”

Overall, the TJIMO was truly a great time for middle school students and Jefferson math lovers to come together and solve some interesting math problems, like finding the surface area of the tetrahedron formed by the three-dimensional coordinates (2012, 2013, 2014), (2013, 2014, 2012), (2012, 2014, 2013), and (2014, 2012, 2013). Even the coaches had to think for a bit when they saw this one.

“That was a hard problem,” said Reddy. “You’ve just got to love tetrahedral barycentric coordinates.”