Middle School math teacher Richard Kalustian reports on the 2017 Washington State Math Council Middle School Math Olympiad, held this year on Saturday, April 29.
The Washington State Math Council holds a Middle School Math Olympiad contest every spring at several sites around the state. On Saturday, April 29, we went to the International School in Bellevue, where there were about 150 to 200 students from grades five through eight. (It looked like there might have been some third and fourth graders, too.) It’s likely there were a couple thousand students participating statewide.
Teams are composed of three or four students. We had a seventh grade team (one sixth grader and two seventh graders) and an eighth grade team (two seventh graders and two eighth graders). The first hour of the contest has one “significant” problem: a major application problem for the team to perform in several stages with a lot of mathematical steps and justification at every stage. This year’s problem involved building a backyard fire pit with concentric circles, trapezoidal bricks, and several filled-in sections of gravel and sand. It was really, really, hard—maybe the hardest one I’ve seen in our 20-plus years of participating in these contests.
The second half of the contest involves several shorter tests in a variety of categories: number systems, ratios and proportions, geometry, probability and statistics, and expressions and equations. Each team must arrive at solutions by consensus and submit one answer for each problem.
The contest does not award places as such, but organizers reward different levels of achievement. Our teams both earned a ribbon for “excellence,” which is the second level, below “superior,” but still pretty darned good. The kids would have loved to get superior medals, but they still felt good about their performance and enjoyed the day.