By Jane Broom, director, Citizenship and Public Affairs
It’s that time of year again…March Madness! A time to celebrate and cheer on student mathletes, the teams and their dedicated coaches for the months of preparation, teamwork and winning game plans. While you might think I’m talking about the one team from our state, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, headed to the NCAA Tournament – or are concerned that I don’t know how to spell athletes, neither is the case today. Because today’s blog is all about the over 400 mathletes, team coaches, parents and volunteers that woke up early last Saturday morning and came to Microsoft from all corners of the state to compete in the annual MATHCOUNTS Washington State Finals. That’s right – all for the love and challenge of math!
Because our company has been built by mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers, we are so thrilled to support, encourage and recognize these 6th-8th grade mathletes. And I think they like coming here too – a place where it is super cool to be smart and there is unlimited free beverages!
There were 162 individuals and 44 teams competing with the top finishers in each category receiving trophies, prizes, candy and lots of admiration. As the individual and team test results were being tallied, we were fortunate to hear from Andy Wilson, a principal researcher in Microsoft Research who inspired us by showing how the technologies he helped invent years ago using math, physics and computer science are now being used by millions of people who use Xbox and Kinect.
The event concluded with the high drama, high pressure countdown round in which each of the top 10 finalists competed in a head to head “bee-style” round in the front of the room. As each question appeared on screen and was read aloud, the kids raced to buzz in with the correct answer. Often times the mathletes buzzed in before I could even read the question – I have to admit that it probably would have taken me the better part of my weekend to accurately answer even one of the questions! Congratulations to Bellevue’s own Odle Middle School for winning the team competition and to the top four individuals – Colin Tang, Daniel Liu, Anthony Lu and Richard Dong – who will now travel to Orlando, Florida for the national finals.
MATHCOUNTS is a national nonprofit run by dedicated teachers, parents and community volunteers – many of whom participated in the program when they were students. Pam Maloney who now organizes the state competition has been volunteering with the organization for 28 years. As an engineer, she loves math and wants to create opportunities for more young people – especially girls and underrepresented minorities – to love math too.
Since 2007, Microsoft and hundreds of employee volunteers have been the very proud hosts of the Washington State Finals. On behalf of Microsoft, thank you to Pam and all the other volunteers that make this event happen and congratulations to all the mathletes, coaches and parents – we are proud of you! Now on to nationals …GAME ON!