Math students calculate the best way to success

June 7, 2011

By Christopher Huber

The Beaver Lake Middle School math team poses with awards after the 2011 Washington State Math Championship May 7 in Blaine. By Dennis Rogers

Eighth-grader Tommy Lin does not care if people call him a nerd because he likes math.

Lin is the Associated Student Body president at Beaver Lake Middle School and also competes with the math team every year at the state championships.

And he does it well.

Lin and his 23 fellow Beaver Lake math club competitors placed in the top 40 percent at the 2011 Washington State Math Championships on May 7 at Blaine High School, according to Beaver Lake math teacher Dennis Rogers, team coach. The school had three teams and two individuals — Michael Cao and Caleb Mok — place in the top 10.

“People think we’re nerds,” Lin said. “But we get to represent our school. Math is something we like to do.”

In addition to Beaver Lake’s success, Pine Lake Middle School and Endeavour Elementary School had teams and individuals place in the top 20 at the competition, according to event results from Blaine High School.

“First of all, math is just great,” Lin said. “It’s fun. It’s challenging. It’s educational and all kids in math club, we get to harness our problem-solving skills.”

Lin was part of the eighth-grade team that placed fifth out of 35 teams, scoring 139 total points. The school’s seventh-grade Team 1 placed eighth out of 56 teams in the state with 159.5 points; Team 2 placed 23rd with 104 points. Its sixth-grade Team 1 finished 12th out of 85 teams with 123.5 points. Team 3, made up of sixth-graders, placed 22nd with 99 points.

Mok placed fifth in the seventh-grade individual competition with a score of 27 points; Cao took 10th among eighth-grade individuals, tallying 23 points.

Rogers highlighted the selection of rigorous test questions organizers throw at the young mathematicians throughout the competition. He admitted many of the questions are difficult for a teacher to answer.

“The math questions are really hard,” Rogers said. “It’s pretty high-level math.”

During the daylong competition, the students participate in team and individual tests. For a team test, the group of four splits into two pairs to solve 10 problems in 15 minutes. They work on a variety of problems, including probability, algebra and geometry, Rogers and Lin said.

Beaver Lake tends to do well against the tougher teams, like Lakeside, Odle Middle School and the Northwest Chinese School, they said.

“I thought it was really cool, because we were competing against private schools like Lakeside,” Lin said. “It’s actually a really competitive atmosphere. We’re all scoping the other teams out. We all work together and we always get excited to hear if our school did well.”

The Pine Lake Middle School seventh-grade Team 1 placed 19th out of 56 teams; the sixth-grade team placed 20th. Endeavour’s fifth-grade Team 1 earned fifth place with 133.5 points; its Team 3 got 12th place overall in its grade level.

Lin noted the difficulty and wide-ranging variety of questions the math competitors faced throughout the day. He particularly struggled with the probability questions. But the team did well in algebra.

“They were hard problems. It’s not just anything a kid off the street could do,” he said. “We got a perfect score in algebra.”

Beaver Lake traditionally has sent more participants to state than most schools, Rogers said.

“We’ve always been the largest team there,” Rogers said. “We’re a comprehensive middle school. Every single math teacher was represented.”

To prepare for the competition each spring, the math teams practice with old tests provided by Blaine High School and championship organizers, he said. Students work together during their weekly gatherings after school to help each other with problems.

“My goal is for kids to have fun with math,” Rogers said.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or Comment at

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