2013 Thanksgiving Tournament

by David Zheng, University High, Class of 2014

The gym was eerily silent and gloomy as the footfalls of thirty high school students reverberated throughout the North Gym at Troy High School at 11:30 AM. Mere two hours later, it was filled with over 200 laughing, chattering elementary school students from grades 3 to 6, listening to the catchy beats of the pop music emanating through the speakers. The 2013 Orange County Math Circle Thanksgiving Tournament was about to begin. Boasting the highest attendance to date, the 5th annual competition was held on a Sunday afternoon on November 17th, 2013. Many of the kids had never been to a math competition before or even a high school gym, and as we prepared to start the tournament, I could see each kid’s enthusiasm in the way they sat, or rather, couldn’t sit in their seats.

Emcees Hyun Jong Kim and myself, with Tournament Director Michelle Chen, OCMC President Anne Chen, and Vice-President of Marketing Staphany Hou led this year’s Thanksgiving Tournament. As always, the contest questions are designed to challenge students with fun problem solving and teamwork, skills that not only competitive math but all subjects and disciplines require. The tournament grouped students of the same grade into tables of six, giving each student 4 sets of 8 problems and 12 minutes each in the individual round. Volunteers were constantly on their toes, passing out and collecting test questions and answer sheets in between rounds. During test-taking, volunteers served as proctors, making sure that every student was taken care of, while in another room, volunteers were busy grading as stacks of tests came flowing in, hundreds at a time.

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During breaks, students had the opportunity to take a “Math is…” picture. Kids wrote whatever math meant to them, from “Math is fun” to “Math is a all-encompassing descriptor of the universe” and posed to take a picture with the sign. OCMC also asked volunteers and participants to bring toys to donate to kids in the Santa Ana Unified District. I was impressed and delighted to see that over 70 gifts were donated, all in the spirit of community and charity.
Following the individual round was the team round and story round. Students worked with their table of six to solve more difficult team questions. Kids that seized the opportunity for cooperation often worked quickly and efficiently. The story round was similar to the team round, but the questions were all themed on a hapless Benjamin who decides to go shopping. Students helped Benji with different mathematical encounters, whether watching movies or eating donuts.

As each student left the gym at the end of a difficult yet fun day, they walked into the darkness knowing that they had overcome great obstacles and had made great friends in mere hours.

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