MY MTAP EXPERIENCE:
Why Mathematics is the Art of All Arts
Weenter Eberhardt, 8th Grade
To earn the title as the 7th Top Placer among all private schools in Metro Manila is, among other things, immensely satisfying. Our award certificates may be proudly posted on our walls now, but the memory of our journey to reach this victory is far more precious than any accolade. I am still both amazed and delighted that we have held the torch of Everest Academy high, and have managed to run the race to the very end!
Back in October 2013, a number of ace students of Everest Academy (from Grades 1 to 8) were handpicked to participate in the Mathematics Teachers Association of the Philippines (MTAP) Training Program for the Mathematically Gifted. A high-level preparatory and pre-eliminations course, the ultimate goal of which was to enhance knowledge and to qualify for the inter-school Annual Math Challenge competitions sponsored by Metrobank-MTAP-DepEd. The course was conducted over seven consecutive Saturdays at one of the public schools in Taguig. I admit, each session was no easy feat as we jostled with other schools’ Math wizards. Yet, I must say my life changed profoundly the day I walked into that school.
For the first time, I realized that other mathematically-proficient kids like me existed – from all walks of life! It’s funny, even strange, but true: every time I heard my name called, followed by “of Everest Academy Manila”, it reminded me of who I was as a person, and how tremendously honored I was to fulfill the singular task of carrying the torch of Everest Academy nationwide. Instinctively, hearing my name called this way for recitation always got me energized! Spending four tedious hours of brain-tumbling math studies, Saturday after Saturday, may not seem fun for most, yet we persevered and carried on.
I remained focused in fulfilling my goal – to qualify for the eliminations. In anticipation, I thought, why not apply the mathematical concepts of probabilities? After all, what is math for if not to apply to real life situations! In simplest terms, the odds of our success in making it could be expressed in the ratio 1:2. That is, the probability that one or the other of two events will occur is equal to the probability that the second will occur, minus the probability that they will both occur.
Needless to say, in this case, regardless of the calculated mathematical odds, I was confident I could do it. I just knew we could, because there is relatively a “sure enough” predictable victory when one gives everything one can! And we gave our all.
True enough, at the culmination of the pre-elimination round, our Grade 8 team made it to the next round. Now, it was time to have my Semper Altius mind re-oiled for our next target: to pass the level called the “Math Challenge Elimination Round for NCR Private Schools.” So it was, that on January 16, 2014 at one of the other international schools in BGC, Grade 8 students, four from every school, took 50-item written tests within a two-hour time period. It was the same test dozens of other teams from Taguig, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Las Pinas, and Pateros (indeed the entire metro Manila) were pouring over at the very same minute! The score in this written competition is based on speed, correctness and math knowledge in Higher Arithmetic, Geometry, Statistics and Algebra. Oh yes, those stress-laden fears and emotional anxieties were very real, especially when we as a group and as a school had so much to prove. At the end of that day, thinking that I had what felt like 35 sure correct answers, I was again confident to have implemented my “perfect solution” to put Everest in the next round.
Consequently, Everest made it once again to the next round – the “High School Area Finals!” This time, only the top 3 students were chosen to qualify, namely, Nico Reichert, Chino Guerrero, and myself. At this point, it was no longer an individual quest, but rather, a mutation of all our mathematical prowess combined into one unified “Team Everest”.
We knew in our hearts that God had put us all together with the goal of carrying our school banner and waving it to its full glory. I remember during the team finals on January 31, 2014 in Las Piñas City, we had to hurdle a target of at least 35 points out of the perfect score of 60 to qualify for the next and final round. We were given a minute per question to answer…orally! The questions were quite easy in the beginning, but when the few hard ones came, we found ourselves on the edge of our seats. Still, for Chino, Nico and myself, we remained steadfast. Facing a challenge is one thing; succeeding against challengers is another thing. Find the apothem of the largest hexagon circumscribed about an ellipse of eccentricity 4/7, nothing was special about that! Piece of cake! We had to deliver…. And guess what? Of course, we came through with flying colors, and we did it well!
This means that we made it to the Sectoral Finals, which was the next higher level. That’s right: this will be the toughest competition yet, as only the best of the best private schools in Metro Manila make it to this round!
With only about a week to this competition, we managed to undergo quite a few hours of intense training after school, all in a harrowing stretch of three days altogether. Speak of a marathon drill!
We worked through many math exercises and read up on Trigonometry, Algebra, Plane and Coordinate Geometry, probably hundreds of word problems, and on and on. But what hit us, and hit us hard, was one math trainor’s ultimate question: “If I have three winning students on the one hand, armed with knowledge, sharp minds and willpower on the other, what do I have?” The answer: VICTORY!!!
The probability of a successful outcome is determined by finding the number of successful combinations, and then dividing by the total number of all combinations. One powerful configuration of factors that will make us win: knowledge, determination, and will.
Finally, the “Math Challenge Sectoral Finals High School Category” arrived. It was held on February 4, 2014. Not a pindrop could be heard in the room, except for the teacher reading the questions, exactly twice. I refused to look at the next desk of students from a Catholic girls’ school from the south of Manila to our right or the greenclad students to our left, so I could remain focused. My, how we gave our best and prayed!
The questions were incredibly challenging, but nothing that we intensely struggled over or couldn’t solve correctly. We felt utter joy and confidence whenever we got the answers correct! This kept us going, and by the end of the competition, we placed 7th! In my mind I was crying, “Way to go, Everest!”
When I look back and remember the power behind our success, I am filled with admiration, respect and gratitude to our mentor and motivator, Mr. Ed Arceo. Like the true master that he is to his apprentices, he believed in our potential, our capabilities, and the heights we can reach, which we ourselves could not see at first; a conviction that was contagious enough to make us believe that we could make it. His dedication and encouragement was profuse, always making us feel that we could attain victory if we wanted it. He got us there through the right mathematical trajectories exactly when the right opportunities were congruent at the right points in space-time. From my abcissa of perception, I learned that Math competitions are not only for solving numbers: they are also for dividing anxieties, for subtracting jitters, and for multiplying brainpower, speed and precision. More important of all, Math competitions are for adding to character.
This is wisdom for the ages, but it will be ever true that mathematics is the science of all sciences, and the art of all arts. Isn’t it fascinating how this almighty math is the only place where you can raise something to nothing and get 1, divide by zero to experience infinity, and buy 640 watermelons without anybody wondering why!