Massachusetts Student Wins MATHCOUNTS Title

July/August 2019

NSPE Today
Massachusetts Student Wins MATHCOUNTS Title

MATHCOUNTS CHAMP DANIEL MAI
MATHCOUNTS CHAMP DANIEL MAI

Except for the almost $2.5 million he made in 33 appearances with Alex Trebek, “Jeopardy James” doesn’t have anything on “MATHCOUNTS Mai.”

On May 13, as James Holzhauer was making his epic run on the game show Jeopardy!, Acton, Massachusetts, eighth-grader Daniel Mai walked off an Orlando stage as the champion of the 2019 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition.

James (more on him later) may excel at the trivia of pop culture and the arts, but Mai’s specializes in crazy-fast calculations to answer questions like, “A circular table has T seats. With 11 of the seats occupied, the table is not full, but each unoccupied seat is adjacent to an occupied seat. What is the absolute difference between the greatest and the least possible values of T?”

From a field of 100,000 mathletes, 224 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders made it to the national finals in Orlando after wending their way thru 500 local competitions and 50 state competitions. The top four from each state and territory advanced to the finals.

In the final countdown round, Mai and 11 other students met in head-to-head matchups for the national title. In addition to Mai, the finalists were Jeff Lin (MA), William Chen (CA), Jessica Wan (PR), Ethan Zhou (VA), Sam Wang (VA), Rich Wang (TX), Suyash Pandit (OR), Eric Shen (CA), Alan Kappler (OR), Karthik Vedula (FL), and Ram Goel (OR).

In the final match against eighth-grader Suyash Pandit, Mai swept the board, answering all four questions correctly. Mai won the final round by correctly answering, “What is the quotient of 5040 divided by the product of its unique prime factors?” It took him less than 23 seconds to calculate 24.

“MATHCOUNTS Mai” and all the other mathletes in Orlando, like Holzhauer on Jeopardy!, showed that they have skills most people can’t fathom. And, in all fairness to “Jeopardy James,” his numeracy skills were also apparent at an early age. Not only does he hold a B.S. in mathematics, he also competed in the MATHCOUNTS national competition in 1996 and 1997.

“I have a reputation for only pursuing things I enjoy, but working very hard to be the best at those,” Holzhauer told the Chicago Tribune. “Thus I could go to the national finals in Mathcounts in junior high while earning a C in my math class for refusing to do homework.”

ESPN, once again, live streamed the competition, which was hosted and emceed by actor Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stand By Me, and The Big Bang Theory. Watch it on www.espn.com.

On YouTube, you can also watch Daniel’s appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan.

MATHCOUNTS was founded by NSPE, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the CNA Foundation in 1983.

Top Teams

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Florida
  3. California
  4. Washington
  5. Texas
  6. Virginia
  7. Oregon
  8. New Jersey
  9. New York
  10. Alabama