Last week, I proctored the American Mathematics Competition (AMC10/12). Three students in mathclub showed up to take it, along with 4 other students.
When I was a student in high school, I loved these tests. Not only did the 25-question-test set my brain on fire, but the problems were actually do-able. I loved math competitions (e.g. the USAMTS, the New Jersey Math League contest). Not only did I enjoy those types of problems, but I enjoyed the competition aspect of it all. I liked that I was competing not just with myself, and others in my school, but also people nation-wide.
I didn’t excel much in high school. I mean, I got good grades, but I wasn’t an amazing writer, artist, computer programmer. But I did have math — that was mine. It was part and parcel of my identity.
After the test was collected and sealed, students tallied up their scores. [The scoring works as follows: 6 points for each correct answer, 1.5 for each unanswered question, 0 points for each wrong answer.]
Unfortunately for the mathclubbers, you need 100 points to move to the next round of the math competition (the American Invitational Math Exam — AIME), and none broke that barrier. So this year, our students are out of luck.
As a promise to the mathclubbers, I told them I would take the exam at home, under testing conditions (75 minutes, no breaks, no calculator). I got 16 questions right, no questions wrong, and left the rest blank. That gives me a score of 16*6+9*1.5=109.5, which would have qualified me for the AIME. In high school, I always scored around that level.
(And I was nervous that these high schoolers would school me on this test.)
The score is bittersweet. It meant that I still “have it” (“it” being the ability to do AMC problems). It also means that I have not grown smarter since high school.