Buchholz High School senior Ellen Li is the first local student to place at MIT’s highly competitive Math Prize for Girls tournament.
Over the weekend, she traveled to Boston with six other Buchholz students to compete. Li, 17, tied for tenth, winning a $450 prize.
This wasn’t Li’s first time at Math Prize, but it was the first time she made it past the qualifying round. Li has competed for the past two years but said the “third time’s the charm.”
“This year I really wanted to get something. It’s the last year I can go to competition. That motivation inspired me to do more,” Li said.
That meant attending summer math camps and doing practice exams in her spare time.
In addition to practicing with Buchholz’s math team, Li takes calculus 3 and statistics courses at the University of Florida.
Buchholz’s award winning math team has won the most state and national Mu Alpha Theta championships — nine in a row — but until this year, the team has never placed in MIT’s competition.
Li competed against 293 girls from all over the U.S. and Canada in two rounds of testing. She answered 11 out of 20 questions correctly during the two-and-a-half-hour test.
“The questions are anything from algebra to geometry and trigonometry, basically what can be learned at the high school level,” Li said.
For Li, the best part of the experience was meeting people she could relate to.
“One of the great things about the competition is that you can meet girls who are interested in the same things you are. It’s hard to find people who actually like to about math,” she said.
Now that she’s earned her spot as one the best math students in the nation, Li will advance to the final round of the competition.
“Math Prize will send an exam to Buchholz, and depending on my score, I can win a gold, silver or bronze medal,” she said.
Li said it won’t be her last time in Boston. She hopes to return after graduation to study applied mathematics or computer science.
“MIT or Harvard. That’s the dream.”