MIT President Susan Hockfield Applauds 250 High School Women in Math
First Prize Of $25,000 Goes To 10Th Grader
MIT, Boston: The world of math and arithmetic is sometimes considered to be a male-dominated field. In a world where men and boys are given the most credit for their mathematical accomplishments, the Advantage Testing Foundations’ Math Prize for Girls is a welcome change. The Math Prize for Girls is a competition open to junior high school and high school women across the country who excel in math and science.
Recently, the Math Prize for Girls celebrated its third year at MIT. The competition lasts an entire day while the girls conquer a multitude of written tests. Over the course of the day, the 250 competitors dwindle down to 10 finalists. Those 10 finalists are then honored at the award ceremony at the Kresge Auditorium on campus.
During the award ceremony, past winners were recognized and many speakers shared their wisdom with the audience. Dr. Susan Hockfield, president of MIT, gave encouraging statistics to the competitors. “I am here to tell you two things,” Hockfield announced, “first, you are not alone. There are many people in the world who care intensely about math and science and engineering, even if there may not be lots of them at your high school.” She went on to explain that 45 percent of the current MIT student body consists of young women. Eighty-five percent of those women will major in math at MIT. The girls in the audience smiled at those statistics.
Other speakers included Dr. Tom Leighton, the co-founder of Akamai Technologies, Luyi Zhang, a current MIT freshman and the keynote speaker Dr. Shafi Goldwasser, a computer science professor at MIT. Each speaker had supportive and enlightening advice to share with the young competitors.
The award ceremony commenced with the final 10 contestants in a difficult tie. After three mind-bending math questions, the final winners were determined. The first prize, a check for $25,000, was handed to 10th grader Victoria Xia of Vienna, Virginia. Tenth grader Julia Huang and 9th grader Danielle Wang each received $7,500 for winning second and third place, respectively. Wang was the first-place winner in the previous year.
The Math Prize for Girls is a special competition for its contestants and winners. Elizabeth Shen, a high school senior from Charlotte, N.C., said, “In the world of mathematics competitions most of the dominant people are boys … and I think that’s because in society it’s more appropriate for boys to be involved in math and science. But this competition allows girls and women to shine.”
Another contestant, Melody Guan from Toronto, competes regularly in math competitions. She describes the female atmosphere as being a supportive environment. “It’s very special and unique and extremely encouraging to be in an environment where the contestants are all girls. Also, it’s easier to make friends because you share a common language. It’s nice to make a network of girl mathletes,” she said. Following high school, the two seniors intend to study a math-related field at either MIT or Harvard.
Hockfield summed up in her final statement the power of this competition: “The math skills each of you is building now will allow you to live a life beyond that of spectators and consumers,” she explained. “You can be the creators and inventors and problem-solvers of our future, and I can guarantee that there is nothing more exhilarating.” #