BY COLLEEN SPARKS
Some students dread tackling math problems, but 13-year-old Agustya Matheth of Chandler thrives on it.
The BASIS Chandler school eighth-grader’s combination of hard work, dedication and passion have proved to be the winning formula for making it to an elite national competition.
Matheth, along with fellow BASIS Chandler eighth-grader Vivek Chalasani, will compete in the 2017 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition May 14th and 15th in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Only three other students in Arizona are advancing to the national event based on their performance at a state competition.
Two of the other students in the state going to the national contest attend BASIS Scottsdale and the other one goes to BASIS Tucson North.
Not only is Matheth going to test his ability to solve mathematical problems quickly in the fast-paced MATHCOUNTS competition, but he also earned a spot at the U.S. Department of Energy National Science Bowl being held April 27th to May 1st in Washington, D.C.
The MATHCOUNTS national winner will receive a $20,000 college scholarship and a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Hunstville, Alabama.
“It makes me feel happy. I had to put in a lot of hard work and dedication. Math is elegant,” Matheth said. “I just like being able to apply things in different ways. Whenever I solve a problem, it makes me feel better.”
Matheth and Chalasani were on a team of 10 BASIS Chandler middle school students who competed at the state competition but the only two who won the all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for the national event.
Students took written tests and had to solve problems together as a team at the state MATHCOUNTS competition. The questions involved algebra, geometry, probability, counting and number theory at the Arizona event, Matheth said.
Lou DiGioia, executive director of the MATHCOUNTS Foundation, the nonprofit organization that holds the competitions, said just to make it to the national competition is a “big honor.”
Thousands of schools across the country in all 50 states and all U.S. territories hold MATHCOUNTS competitions for middle school students starting in September, then the top students at those events move on to regional competitions. After that, the students who demonstrate the best mathematical prowess go on to the state competitions.
More than 100,000 students start at the fi rst competitions in local schools and about 220 students will participate in the MATHCOUNTS national event, DiGioia said. “This type of problem-solving is what they face in real life,” he said. “In real life, there could be any type of problem thrown at you. Usually you have to go to your toolbox to use a lot of different strategies to solve problems.”
Matheth, whose parents are both engineers, has been getting good preparation for the MATHCOUNTS competitions at BASIS, which has a MATHCOUNTS Club, said BASIS Chandler math teacher Teva Clark, who co-coaches the club with math teacher Megan Mullins. About 100 students at the school, which has fifth- through 12th graders, tried out for the MATHCOUNTS Club, but only about 30 got chosen to participate in the club.
Clark said BASIS Chandler seniors Alan Hu and Liam Lawson both participated in the National MATHCOUNTS competition when they were eighth-graders and they help prepare other students for what they’ll face in the contests.
BASIS focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and Clark said Matheth’s math teachers describe him as being “off the charts” in math.
Matheth’s mother, Sunitha Ramachandran, said she and her husband, Ajeet Koru, are “very proud” of their son, and BASIS Chandler’s teachers and Head of School Stephanie Terrell have helped make his success possible.
“We saw since the early days he has an aptitude and attitude very good towards mathematics, so we made sure he was in an environment where he had peers of the same ability,” Ramachandran said.
Koru gave Matheth some tips, but the teen didn’t need much prompting. “He’s very, very self-driven,” Ramachandran said. “We know it was a lot of dedicated time and effort. He sacrifi ced video games.” Matheth said the MATHCOUNTS competitions have helped him “embrace the subject” and given him a chance to talk with “peers who have the same level of understanding.”
“If you’re struggling in math, then you just have to learn how to like it,” he said.
Matheth also enjoyed the thrill of answering questions on the spot while competing at a regional competition for the 2017 National Science Bowl in February at Arizona State University’s West campus in Glendale. He will join BASIS Chandler middle school teammates Adrian Palumbo, Omkar Arasaiah, Zarif Ahsan and Aadi Wadhray at the National Science Bowl.
About 50 middle school teams and 70 high school teams from around the country will take part in the National Science Bowl, said Crystal Kolosick, Science Bowl coordinator for Arizona. BASIS Mesa’s high school team is among the country’s high school teams going to the national Science Bowl.
At the Arizona Science Bowl, middle school teams had to answer questions in a Jeopardy!-type format in general science, as well as life, physical, earth and space sciences, energy and math, Kolosick said.
“BASIS Chandler really prepares us well for that,” Matheth said. “I really like it. It’s fun for me.”
When he’s not studying math and science, Matheth likes to play the piano, play soccer and participate in National Junior Honor Society activities.
To learn more about MATHCOUNTS, visit mathcounts.org. To learn more about the National Science Bowl, visit science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb.