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personal narratives Jun 04, 2021

By Eric Luo

Math competitions are a challenge that I have enjoyed very much throughout my elementary years. I like the challenge of thinking about and solving difficult problems. This all started in my elementary school math class. I thought everything in my math class was very easy and straightforward. One day, in fourth grade, the teacher selected a few of the students who were performing successfully in class and told us that we were doing a math competition called Math Kangaroo that day. My classmates and I didn't know much about it. She gave us the test. I thought it would be easy, however I changed my mind after the test. The teacher would let us first do the problems in 75 minutes. There are 24 problems, 8 problems worth 3 points each, 8 problems worth4 points each, and 8 problems worth 5 points each. The 3 point problems were simple. As soon as I got to the 4 points problems, a chill ran down my spine. It was harder than I thought. The timer was ticking. My mind went blank. “What am I going to do??!” I said to myself. When there was 1 minute left, I had only managed to do 12 problems. I turned in my test and was very depressed for the rest of the day. 

As soon as I got home, I cried. My mom said, “What’s going on? Did someone bully you in school?” I didn’t say anything. I went to my room and looked at the problems I didn’t know how to do. I managed to solve only 1 or 2 problems, but I eventually gave up. 

Ding Dong! the doorbell rang because my dad had arrived home from work! I darted towards the door to see my dad. “How was your day?” my dad asked. “I didn’t do very good today in today’s math test,” I said, ignoring his question. “Okay, I will help,”my dad replied. After dinner,  I told my dad about the competition and that I really wanted to do well. My dad said that when he was young he also participated in math competitions. He told me about ways and plans to prepare for a test. My dad told me how he and his classmates would learn and do every problem in the book, as they were eating them down. He then found some tests online and started explaining every problem that I didn’t know how to do. 

The next day, I felt a little bit more confident in solving the problems. After a few weeks of studying, I felt really tired of doing math problems and I didn’t want to do them anymore. There were some challenging topics such as probability, logic questions and some complicated word problems. “I don’t want to do this anymore!” I cried. “I thought you wanted to do well on this?” my dad replied. “Yes, I want to do well. ”“No pain, no gain. You have to work hard to get what you want!” my dad replied loudly., My heart sank every time I sat at the table. The words on the books and tests were like monsters and demons chasing around me. It was really hard to keep going and not give up. After a long half-year of practicing, I became more confident than before. The real competition was still two months away. I still worked hard. 

It was the day of the competition. Everyone was waiting to be assigned rooms, and I was so nervous that my hands were shaking. My palms were filled with sweat. I looked around the room and waited for the test to be passed out. When the competition started, I quickly did the easy questions accurately as if I were eating a piece of cake and started working on the harder problems, because of my hard work, a lot of the problems were similar to the ones I did during practice. I felt very stable and wasn’t nervous anymore. By that time there was only 5 minutes left. I had already finished. I checked over my answers a few more times. Ring!! It was over! I felt really good. 

After the competition, I felt more motivated to do harder problems. Later, when the results came in, I got 9th place nationally! This successful competition began to motivate me to solve harder problems. In the future I would participate in more competitions such as the AMC, Math Counts, Math League, Math Olympiad, and more. Overall, this competition meant a lot to me in my elementary years. No matter how you want to give up on something, you must keep doing and trying it until you can do it.

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