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Difficult Math is Fun

Updated: May 14, 2023

Even with a Bio midterm, a Chemistry exam, and the general craziness of another reporting period, seven students in Grade 12 willingly sat for the Euclid Mathematics Contest during 1st period on Tuesday, April 5.

Euclid is a longstanding contest organized by the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, written in April and generally by students in their last year of high school. Participants have 2.5 hours to work their way through 10 questions – a seemingly straightforward format.

Under Ms. Conway’s supervision, intrepid Notre Dame students Gabriel Alcayde, Aidan Diaz, Julian Kyle, Niza Manalili, John Paul Nguyen, Lance Soliman, and Helen Tran laboured over this year’s paper. Some conceded within the hour; a few stuck it out almost to the bitter end.

“It [was] all algebra, weird shapes, and horrible trigonometry,” Julian declared afterwards.

With calculators, but no formula sheet, on questions which seemed progressively more impossible, his fellow contest-takers found the experience “Bad”, “Very bad”, and “Brutal”.

But not just.

The contest was entirely optional. In fact, it had been the students’ idea to write this year. What possessed them?

Ms. Conway had introduced the Grade 11-level Fermat last year. Five wrote, with Helen medalling 1st in the school, and receiving a certificate for placing amongst the top 25% globally.

That was all multiple-choice. Not this time.

Euclid involves, according to Aiden, “Less math, more analysis. Critical thinking.”

“I’m trying to get certain people to take it… but it’s a tough sell,” Mr. Calderwood, who teaches both Math and Robotics, noted wistfully ahead of Tuesday’s contest.

Take some advice from a Juggler who’s been through it now and can still call the exercise good fun:

“Do it, if you want to figure out where you are in Math.”


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