by Elisa Young, Edison High School, Class of 2013
Humming along to the sounds of Taylor Swift and Zedd floating in the gym, I saw girls tossing their hair into ponytails, heard the squeak of their shoes against the floor as they eagerly stood waiting next to stacks of neon-pink printed shirts. Bubbling with excitement, over a hundred girls gathered together on a Sunday afternoon for the 2013 All-Girls Math Tournament, held by the Orange County Math Circle with St. Anne School in Laguna Niguel.
Tournament directors Michelle Chen and Holly Zhou led OCMC’s free tournament for girls grades 3 through 8 on May 19, 2013, with the goal of allowing girls to have some fun problem-solving in teams and discovering their interests in math while they’re at it.
The tournament grouped the girls into three sections by grade, giving each grade group an individual challenge in the first hour consisting of a Sprint round and Target round.
In between rounds, 23 dedicated OCMC volunteers hurried in and out of the gym and grading rooms, occasionally grabbing a snack from St. Anne’s delicious bake sale just outside the gym.
Afterward, the girls were given matchstick puzzles to solve as teams, encouraging them to share ideas in their teams in order to finish the challenge as fast as they can. Seeing the girls work together to problem-solve on the team round is always one of my favorite parts of the tournament, as well as listening to our guest speakers motivate young girls to pursue their interests in mathematics.
This year we had the privilege of enjoying a talk from Priscilla Pham from Google. Describing her childhood fascination with computer games, her interest in computer science as a student at Stanford, and her job working on Google+ as a software engineer, she conveyed the value of math, science, and tech to the girls in the audience. “It’s important to consider that this technology is our future, and the current percentage of girls involved in that,” Priscilla Pham told us, pointing at an infographic showing that females take up only 18% of all undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees.
For all the girls, for me, and for many of the volunteers as well, the day ended with triumph and new dreams. Outside the gym, a poster proudly decorated with marker stated, “If you can do math, you can do anything.”