Students plot vector to Orlando math contest

<p>Students from Kennedy Junior High in Naperville, Allen Chen (left) and Nicky Sun will compete at the national MATHCOUNTS competition in Orlando in May 2014. | Submitted Photo</p>

Students from Kennedy Junior High in Naperville, Allen Chen (left) and Nicky Sun will compete at the national MATHCOUNTS competition in Orlando in May 2014. | Submitted Photo

Nicky Sun and Allen Chen won the state MathCounts competition — and now they’re headed to Disney World.

The two students were part of the Kennedy Junior High team that took first place March 8 at the math competition in Lisle. The boys earned the right to move on to the national competition May 8 through 11 in Orlando by scoring in the top four in the state on individual written rounds.

The Kennedy team captured first place in the team round out of 62 schools in the state contest, besting Chicago’s Whitney Young Academic Center and the University of Chicago Laboratory School.

Besides Nicky and Allen, the team included Melissa Mu, Howie Guo and alternate Albert Lu. In addition, the school brought two individual competitors: Karen Ge and Jason Xia.

Individually, all the Kennedy students placed in the top 10 percent of the 270 students from across the state. Nick came in first, Allen third, Melissa fifth, Karen sixth, Albert tied for seventh, Jason 15th and Howie placed 17th.

Because they were in the top four, Nicky and Allen will join a student from Daniel Wright Junior High School in Lincolnshire, a student from the University of Chicago Laboratory School and the Illinois coach on an all-expense paid trip to the 2014 Raytheon MathCounts National Competition at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Florida.

The coach for the Illinois team is Suzanne Croco, a math teacher at Kennedy and coach of the Kennedy team.

The road to the championship won’t be easy. The four kids from Illinois will be among the 224 final mathletes from 50 U.S. states, U.S. territories, State Department schools and Department of Defense schools.

At least Nicky and Croco have experience on the national stage. Nicky participated on the Illinois team last year, and Croco has coached the state team four of the last five years.

“It is very competitive,” Croco said. “The prizes are pretty substantive.”

Last year the national champion received the $8,000 Donald G. Weinert Scholarship along with a trip to the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. Runners-up, as well as members of the winning team, also receive college scholarships. Croco added that in the past students have received calculators just by making it to nationals.

The weekend of activities starts Thursday. The competition is designed to be completed in roughly three hours. Each competition consists of four parts: the Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown Rounds.

Croco said the Sprint Round features 30 questions, and students have 40 minutes to complete them. The Target Round consists of eight questions, which are distributed to the students a pair at a time. Students have six minutes to complete each pair of problems. In the Team Round, team members work on 10 problems together for 20 minutes.

The top 25 percent of individuals proceed to the Countdown Round, an oral round in which students compete head-to-head.

After a day of working math problems, students and coaches are treated to dinner and entertainment at the Sum of All Thrills at Epot.

On Saturday, students spend the day at Disney theme parks before heading back to the hotel for the awards banquet. Students fly home Sunday.

MathCounts is open to students in sixth through eighth grades. Each year, about 140,000 students from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the State and Defense Department school systems worldwide participate in the competitions.