On November 12, Jesuit will welcome middle school students from across the Portland area to compete in the 35th annual American Mathematics Competition (AMC) for 8th grade and under.
The challenging 25-question examination is the first in a series of competitions leading to the yearly USA Mathematical Olympiad, the nation's premier problem solving competition for high school students.
Across the country, about 140,000 middle schoolers will try their hand at this year's exam, which is known for testing students' logic and creativity.
"STEM majors often report that their enjoyment of math began with math competitions," says Dr. John Gorman, Jesuit mathematics teacher and AMC proctor. "This exam is often the first step in joining a mathematical community of collaboration and meaningful friendships."
The AMC is designed to be rigorous and feature "out of the box" problems. Fewer than a quarter of competitors will get half of the questions correct. But Dr. Gorman believes the challenging nature of the competition can spark an amazing desire in students to learn more:
"At Jesuit, we try to teach students to embrace failure, be patient, and be persistent. We are trying to ignite curiosity and a growth mindset for life."Jesuit began offering a series of AMC selection exams run by the Mathematical Association of America nearly a decade ago. Since that time, the culture of mathematics at the school has flourished.
PHOTO: As a JHS rising senior, alumnus Ashwin Sah '17 helped team USA to a Gold-medal finish at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong (pictured second from left).
In 2010, the school invested heavily in the future of STEM education through the construction of the Elorriaga Center for Science and Mathematics, a LEED Gold certified building containing biology and chemistry labs, robotics, and math classrooms.
"We are fortunate to be able to offer a handful of advanced-topic, full college-credit courses beyond Calculus BC," says Jesuit Principal Paul Hogan. "But I'd argue that what makes our math department unique at the high school level is the caliber of our faculty, many of whom hold advanced degrees."
In addition to a robust summer math program that is open to the public, Jesuit offers enrolled students five dual-credit math courses taught by JHS faculty on campus, including Linear Algebra, Multi-Variable Calculus, Discrete Math, Statistics and Number Theory. About 120 JHS students are taking advantage of this opportunity for the 2019-20 school year for which they'll receive credit from Portland State University.
"At the end of the day, no matter what classes students are taking here at Jesuit, we want to inspire a genuine passion for learning," says Dr. Gorman. "Our mission is to foster a lifelong openness to growth and intellectual pursuit."