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Mathex 2005

Okay, so they didn’t keep that title of ours. But they did okay.  The Mt Roskill year ten team came fourth, out of ninety teams from fifty schools — not a bad effort. All in all, I’m quite proud of them.


It was remarkably exciting for a competition where there is nothing to watch except for three hundred or so kids scratching their heads, another hundred or so running with slips of paper with their answer to the maths question that one of fifty markers gave them, and the manually (and thus poorly) updated scoreboard behind the markers’ table.

The year ten competition saw King’s College and Auckland Grammar break off from the other teams — by the time they were tied on seventy, the next one down was on forty-five. Mt Roskill was in there fighting it out for third place with three other schools for the entire time. Sometimes we fell behind, sometimes we climbed in front.

From the audience, we thought they had made the play-offs for second — they were on eighty-five when we saw our runner exchange slips with the marker, which would’ve brought them up to ninety, to tie with Auckland Grammar. Then the score change never came, and they went to the play-offs with three other schools for third. (We later found out from the team that there had been an error in scorekeeping. They say that with a bit more time they would have made ninety.)

Sadly, they lost the play-offs to Macleans College, but they still did well. And just quietly, a proud moment for us was when the commentator kept reminding the audience of how Mt Roskill was last year’s winners. I also got the supporters present to set up a cheering chant — which, amazingly, the team actually heard.

The year nine enhanced class was in Wellington during Mathex, so we had to send some lower A-streamers, and they came in the top 25%. Not too bad; pity the enhanced class couldn’t be there (no offense to the A-streamers).

Specialist Runners

I couldn’t pick out any specialist runners this year. Last year, I figure we couldn’t have done it without our runner. I’m told (I couldn’t see him well from the competition floor) that especially towards the end of the competition, he was outsprinting ten people with each lap. If figure he saved us about five seconds with each lap, and we must’ve sent about 40 answers (many incorrect), which adds to about three minutes. And three minutes is how long it takes to solve a question. And one question is how much we won by.

The runner tends to be too tired to participate in the actual solving of problems, so it makes sense to have a specialist one. Whether this year’s team would’ve done better with a runner, I’m not sure, though it is worth noting that a minute more would’ve put them in the play-offs for second. Oh well. Next year we’ll get it.

Rule Changes

They changed some rules this year. The first question is now multiple-choice — so that, I figure, the slightly less able teams can at least get five points on the board — and it cannot be passed.

Also, unlimited calculators are allowed, including graphic ones (compare last year, one calculator which must be non-graphic). The supervising teacher reckons it was because Casio, a calculator company, sponsors the competition. More calculators = more sales = more money.

To former competitors, the rule change seems insane — a degrading of the mathematical ability to be discovered here. But, I guess, it’s not so bad. It also helps that the calculators can solve simultaneous and quadratic equations, and there are almost always some in a Mathex competition. Lesson learnt: next year, give the teams a graphic calculator.

Oh, and by the way…

I went to the competition, for those who are wondering, for the pure and sole purpose of supporting our teams and watching them compete for that title we won last year. It was good fun. You can tell the time I had by the amount I’ve written.

Mathex is a mathematics competition where teams of four, including one runner, try to solve twenty problems as fast as they can. The winner is the first to finish all twenty or the team that solved the most in thirty minutes. Scores are done in fives, so a team that has solved ten questions has fifty points.

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