For the first time in school history Lincoln Middle School students grabbed two of the four statewide spots for the 2021 MATHCOUNTS National Competition.
Philip Matchev and Andrew Xing earned top scores on a series of qualifying exams to punch their tickets to nationals representing the state of Florida—with college scholarships on the line.
Xing said the final exam was difficult but fun.
“The test was pretty hard,” Xing said in a phone interview. “It was a lot harder than last year’s practice test, but I had a lot of fun doing it.”
Xing described the final test as “like geometry and algebra 1 and 2, but a bit more complicated.” After comparing notes with Matchev and finding out his friend got a 42 out of a perfect 46 score, Xing thought he’d missed the cut.
“He got two more points than I did, and that’s a lot,” Xing explained. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it, so I was really happy when the results came out.”
It turned out that Matchev had finished second in the state, while Xing took third.
Matchev credited math teacher Will Frazier with preparing him and his classmates for the qualifying exam.
“I knew that Mr. Frazier definitely put us in a position to do our best,” Matchev said. After the exam, Matchev said he was cautiously optimistic about how he did, but “hearing good news is always a pleasant surprise.”
The national competition is set for May 8-10. It usually involves an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., but this year it will take place virtually due to COVID-19 concerns. Last year organizers canceled the competition completely.
According to a school district press release, the national competition includes four rounds, requiring students to complete problems both individually and as teams.
Xing said he’s already identified his strategy.
“I’m trying to balance going fast and being accurate,” he said, noting he would like to finish in the top 40. “If you go too fast, you’re more likely to miss questions you should have gotten, but if you go too slow you run out of time.”
Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said this is the fifth time in the last nine years that students from Lincoln Middle have qualified for the MATHCOUNTS National Competition, but it’s the first time since 2018 and the first time two have done so in the same year.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a quote from Matchev.