A Winning Formula

The Kimball Union Math Team found a silver lining of the pandemic: the opportunity to virtually face off against some of the best and brightest scholastic mathematicians.
This year, the team’s achievements have been among the best the department has ever seen as it aimed for the stars: The Purple Comet Math Meet, a global competition held virtually on April 14.
“It feels great to be able to bring all the math talent together to make KUA stronger,” says Wenshi ’22, captain of the team. “The experience of participating in the Purple Comet was a lot of fun. We worked individually at first, and then we collaborated to cross-validate our results. This way, we utilized our time really well. It’s interesting to give teamwork a space in the realm of mathematics, a subject usually perceived as one for disconnected individuals.”
The Purple Comet Math Meet assembled 3,998 teams from 62 countries in the highest level of competition many of KUA’s math enthusiasts have ever faced. KUA received one of the 19 honorable mentions in its division – which included high schools with up to 1,200 students – and finished 14th among 985 teams.
“It’s been an excellent season for the Math Team,” says Scott Domingos, Arthur Day Welch Chair and mathematics teacher. “The questions on these competitive tests are out of this world and the tests themselves are spread out over two days. These students are in tougher competitions than we’ve previously entered, and yet they are doing better than in previous years in smaller leagues.”
It's been a steady trek toward the Purple Comet for this year’s students. Starting with the national math competition offered by the Math Association of America, 122 students from the honors math courses took the exam. Among them, six qualified for the American Invitational Math Exam, and Champ Laksanawisit later received a Silver Award from the Mathematics Association of America. In the New England Math League, comprised of 130 teams throughout the region, the KUA Math Team placed fifth in the league.
“Competition can be frustrating, and the bar is so high that this type of thing is not for the casual math lover,” notes Domingos. “You have to have a certain level of commitment, and I’m thrilled with our performance. We’ll plan to make this competition a regular event for our upcoming seasons and hope to have several student teams compete.”