SENIOR MATH CHALLENGE
PANCAKES, PI AND PIZZA: A STORY OF SKILFULL MEDIOCRITY
By Jack Bates
The entire day was a fun and unique experience from early start to late finish. Having to get up at half past 5 in the morning was no cup of tea – neither was the lack of cups of tea. However, once we arrived in London, the day truly began.
Popping round to the nearest McDonald’s for a sneaky treat breakfast, we prepared at the last minute by trying some of the practice questions. Questions that, unfortunately, were from the regional rounds, not the nationals (much to Sam’s dismay).
Having topped up on food, bellies full and minds ready, we set off through the labyrinth of London’s streets in search of the venue. Following straight behind the other groups of backpacked teenagers, we converged into the building in which we were to sit for the next few hours.
The competition began straight away with the poster contest. The topic: the mind-bending reality that is π.
We did well, but neglected to include any colour – a fact that would im-pact our overall rise straight to the top. One thing we did do well was our knowledge on the topic; some posters didn’t understand what key terms were, and a few just outright didn’t read the rules, something Mr Britton (our invigilator) was quick to point out.
After a brief break and a welcome to the main part of the competition, the group round commenced! Our highest points came straight at the beginning of the day, before starting a slow decline towards the end of the day – our brains were fried by the point after all. We scored a total of 54 points out of 60 with the four of us working together as an unstoppable team, placing us in one of the best schools there after only the first of four rounds.
Lunch break! By this time, we’re almost half way through the day and some teams were complaining of hunger. A buffet was provided for the students, with your standard lunch. But a grievous crime was committed: the teachers got a brownie each and guess who didn’t? With the slightest hint of sulkiness, we finished off our lunch and prepared for the next round.
Up next: the cross number. A puzzle similar to the standard crossword, the teams are split into pairs, and are given, in their pairs, the down clues and the across clues. The catch: you may not talk, straight to the other pair, only through the invigilator, and only to ask for a clue to be solved.
Given 40 minutes to fill in the grid, we were done within half that, dropping a mere 2 marks. At this point in the day, we’re unstoppable – dropping a mere 8 points of a total 126.
Unfortunately, we didn’t count on the shuttle round. A simple concept, yet made near impossible by a single difficult question. Or, in this case, multiple difficult questions. Hamstrung, we fell behind heavily, totalling up a mere 34 points of a possible 60, bending our aspirations for first out of shape. What could we do to make up for the loss?
Lose more, it seemed. Taking a few early heavy hits straight to the points maker, we threw away a couple of early questions, dropping a few marks. However, we managed to regain control in the middle game, quickly and strongly racking up enough points to se-cure a stable position in the rankings, even if it wasn’t in the best 10. Or 20. Or even top 30.
Hammering our aspirations back into workable form, we completed the day with around 180 points of a total 240, a respectable, if improvable, score. Coming 35th was quite an achievement, given that, last year, with a formidable team, we only took 76th place.
But, the day was not yet over. With 2 hours to spare between the end of the competition and our train leaving, we decided to wander (and wonder) around London for a while, sharing stories and laughing at dubious jokes. Eventually we ended up at a pizza place at the station, with most of the team going straight for the all-you-can-eat buffet, and gorging themselves to fill.
Finally, after a long and arduous day, we trekked back onto the train and went home, content with being the 35th best school in the country at maths, and one of the best of the state funded schools.