2010 All-Girls Math Tournament

 - Alex Zivkovic, University High School, Class of 2013

On Sunday, April 19th, 2010, over 180 female math enthusiasts gathered at St. Anne High School in Laguna Niguel for Orange County’s first all girl tournament. This event was hosted by the nonprofit organization, Orange County Math Circle, which organizes math competitions such as this free of charge to students in Orange County. Students from all math levels attended this event which was open to any girls in the third through eighth grades.

     Many of the competitors were from St. Anne, where the competition was located, however a large portion of the students drove from all across the OC to compete in this event. Inside of the large gymnasium at the K-8 school, 30 tables were set up for 6 girls to sit at each. Immediately after arriving, the girls were ushered into the bleachers to be informed of how the competition was set up. They were informed that there would be two individual rounds with math games in between.

     After seating the participants at the tables, the Orange County Math Circle volunteers (who for this competition were mostly female) passed out the first round of tests, a moderately challenging, thirty question test. Once the forty minute testing period finished, the female competitors were given a break to buy baked goods, graciously provided by the parent volunteers from St. Anne. The second round began after the delicious assortment of brownies and cookies was enjoyed by everyone.

     Round two was the “target round”. Composed of only eight questions, the problems on this test were significantly harder and students were given half the time to solve them. Although difficult, many girls remarked that it was not discouraging and found it quite enjoyable.

     To finish off the competition, the girls participated in a lollipops riddle contest. As a team now, the girls were presented clues about the number of different lollipops in a bag. The first team to guess the right number of each lollipop not only had the satisfaction of boasting their mathematical skill, but also was awarded a material prize that they could possibly enjoy more: an actual bag of lollipops. These series of riddles marked the end of the competitive part of the event.

     Before the awards were presented, Dr. Natalia Komarova from University of California, Irvine, gave a speech about her work in studying the mathematics of colors. To the young audience and their parents, Dr. Komarova spoke about the way people divide and categorize colors and how this process occurs in different cultures. After her presentation, Johnny Li and Elisa Young, the organizers of this competition, presented bouquets to both Dr. Natalia Komarova and Mrs. Joanne Williams, the Principal of St. Anne’s, thanking both of them for their contributions to this competition.

            Despite the successes of this tournament, a tragic truth for many of these math competitions is that the female to male ratio is grossly disproportionate, with most competitors being male. This competition, inspired by the suggestion of several parents of female participants at a previous OCMC math event, hopes to inspire more young girls to develop a passion for the study of mathematics.

            At the conclusion of her presentation, Dr. Komarova remarked that events such as this make her hopeful that more girls will be exposed to the beauty of math and that more women will one day enter the field. With the contribution of Orange County Math Circle, perhaps this can soon be accomplished.

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