2014 New Year Invitational

by Lia Tian, Irvine High School, Class of 2017

On January 19, 2014 the Orange County Math Circle rang in the New Year with the excitement and energy of the fifth annual New Year Invitational Tournament at University High School. Over 140 elementary and middle school students competed in this event. For some participants, it was a chance to sharpen up their math skills in preparation for the upcoming MATHCOUNTS competition, and for others, it was simply a new learning experience while having fun with their friends. But whether they came from the local elementary school or from as far as San Diego, one thing was clear for both volunteers and participants alike- an inexhaustible passion for math.

By 8:45, the majority of the participants had arrived, and the multipurpose room was packed with students. The air was thick with nervousness and excitement. The tournament began at 9:00 with the Sprint Round, a 30-question, 45 minute section. Mere seconds after the start, the entire room grew silent except for the diligent and fervent scratching of pencil against paper and the footsteps of the proctors. The atmosphere positively radiated with the intense and purposeful concentration of the students as the tackled each problem.

After the end of the first round, students used the first break as an opportunity to debate over the answers from the previously round, and socialize with their friends. Soon, the Target Round, a 30 minute 8-question round of more challenging questions, began. The shorter time frame and the increased difficulty of this round added to the purposeful drive of the students to complete as many problems as accurately as possible.

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The Target Round was followed by the Team Round, which consisted of the 10 most challenging questions of the day. Given the opportunity to work together, the participants attacked the problems with renewed energy. While the students were hard at work deciphering the last set of problems, the graders in the nearby grading room were also getting to work, racing to grade all the answer sheets and tally the totals for determining the winners, and the top 16 who would move on to the high-stakes, Jeopardy-style Countdown Round.

When the Team Round drew to a close, the participants exited the multipurpose room for a 20 minute break outside, where they held animated discussions over the events of the day, and their predictions of who had done well. Meanwhile, in the multipurpose room, volunteers scrambled to break down the all the tables and rearrange the chairs for the Countdown Round.

At 11:10, the room was packed with parents, students, and volunteers, all waiting on the edge of their seats for the beginning of the much-anticipated Countdown Round. After a short talk about OCMC and acknowledgment of the organizers and teacher advisors, the 16 students in the Countdown Round were announced. The 16 participants were organized into a bracket where they competed in pairs; the winner in each round would move on. In a crowd pleasing final round, Daniel Sun took first place.

During the Awards Ceremony that followed, awards were given in two divisions- 6th grade and under, and 7th and 8th grade. The top 6 individuals and top 2 teams in each grade were awarded. Whether they took home a trophy or not, all the student participants had a great time. As one parent said, “This tournament was a great opportunity for my child to both have fun and learn!” For students, parents, and volunteers alike, the New Year Invitational Tournament was a spectacular way to celebrate the new year of 2014!

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