Phillips Exeter Academy students earn medals at Math Olympiad
- September 28, 2010
- By Alison Ladd
- YORK WEEKLY
Teens participate in math competition
EXETER — When Adisa Kruayatidee and Joy Zheng spent three weeks in China competing in the 2010 China Girls Mathematics Olympiad, they received medals among the best math student's from 190 countries.
Seniors at Phillips Exeter Academy, both Kruayatidee of Exeter, and Zheng of Bellevue, Wash., were chosen to be a part of the eight-person U.S. team that traveled to Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province, China, in August.
The International Math Olympiad is a two-day competition including problems that would challenge most professional mathematicians. The competition consists of two four-question tests with problems ranging from extremely difficult pre-calculus problems to problems not conventionally covered at school, even at a university level.
Before traveling to China, the girls participated in a training camp at the University of Nebraska. The girls felt the training camp was a crucial part of their success.
"With anything, practice is important. It helps with math and allows you to become more confident," said Kruayatidee.
This was the third year traveling to China for Zheng, but the first for Kruayatidee.
"I did not think I was going to make the team; when I found out I would be going to China I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time. I had no idea what to expect — I don't even speak Chinese," said Kruayatidee.
Kruayatidee and Zheng have been practicing for competition for several years. Zheng competed in her first in fifth grade while Kruayatidee began math by chance.
"I was driving by a state math competition with my parents and we wanted to see what was going on. I met and started talking with some people and ever since then I've loved math competitions," said Kruyatidee.
During their time in China the girls, along with the other six from the United States, had time to bond with each other and with competitors from other countries.
Zheng and Kruayatidee formed relationships with people from around the world, including the students of the school where the competition was held.
"There was really a sense of community while we were there. All of us were completely different, but we all had the passion for math in common," said Zheng.
During their trip the girls had the opportunity to shop and sightsee in China. Competition costs, the U.S. team's travel expenses and spending money were donated by several sponsors, which made the trip possible for the girls.
Sponsors include the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, IBM Research - Almaden, Akamai Foundation, the Mathematical Association of America, the Sunlin and Priscilla Chou Foundation, and the Science Workshop.
During the test Kruayatidee started off rocky but surprised herself in the end.
"My strongest subject is geometry, and that was the first problem I got. I thought I would nail it, but it turned out to be extremely difficult," said Kruyatidee.
Zheng mentions that the difficult part of this competition is the lack of confirmation.
"You don't know if you are getting the correct answers so you have to be persistent," she said.
Zheng received a gold medal in her third year and Kruayatidee received a bronze medal.
"It was surreal and gives me something more to work for. It made me more ambitious, but I still have a long way to go," said Kruayatidee.
Kruyatidee resides in Exeter with her mother and is a member of the Seacoast Civic Dance Company. With all of that on her plate, she still plans on competing with the U.S. team in 2011.
The girls do not have plans for college yet.
Note: A photo of Joy Zheng and Adisa Kruayatidee can be viewed by following the URL link at the top.