Beating the Odds

Chad Qian wins the 2012 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition

May 16, 2012

MATHCOUNTS Executive Director Lou Digioia (left) and Raytheon Chairman and CEO William H. Swanson (right) pose with Chad Qien, the winner of the Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition.

Math is no problem for Chad Qian, 14.  He is the champion of the 2012 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition. The event was held in front of a live audience at Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, on May 11. Qian competed against more than 220 middle school students for the title. He answered the following math problem in just five seconds to be crowned the winner.

Question: A bag of coins contains only pennies, nickels and dimes with at least five of each. How many different combined values are possible if five coins are 
selected at random?

Answer:  21

Qien’s correct answer earned him the grand prize: an $8,000 Donald G. Weinert Scholarship and a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. “I felt sort of shocked and I was very surprised,” Qien told TFK. “I was very excited that I had won.”

How It Works

MATHCOUNTS is an educational program that helps middle school students with math. It offers free material to parents and teachers to help kids sharpen their math skills. More than 6,000 schools competed to earn a spot at the Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition this year. Students had to win local competitions and then place in the top four of their peers during their state competition.

Pam Erikson, a spokesperson for Raytheon, told TFK she was impressed with the competitors this year. “I think students often don’t realize what they can achieve until they jump in and give it a try,” she said.

Students traveled from all 50 states and from U.S. territories to compete at the event. Students were asked to take a written test on day one. On day two, the 12 students with the best scores competed one-on-one in a speedy countdown round. Erikson says it teaches students more than just math. “I think it teaches people how to compete and how to stay focused on the task at hand to achieve the results you want,” she said. 

Practice Adds Up

The winning national team was from Massachusetts. The second place for individuals went to Ashwin Sah from Portland, Oregon. Qian came in first and represented his eighth grade class from Sycamore School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Qian says when he grows up he will most likely follow a career in math and science or medicine.  His advice to other students looking to take part in a math competition is to keep practicing. “Get other people who like math also and work together so you can learn from each other,” he said. “Just practice and learn as much as you can.”

To watch a video interview with Qian, click here.


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