Playing the Numbers Game: The American Mathematics Competition
Posted 02/22/2018 03:05PM

By Caroline York/Lion Staff

What is the largest prime divisor of every 3-digit number with 3 identical non-zero digits?


This complex question and others like it are featured on the American Mathematics Competition, or AMC for short. It is a competition that tests students’ knowledge of math.

According to the Mathematical Association of America, every year, 350,000 students from 6,000 schools take part in the AMC, and this year, several Lovett students will participate in the contest.


In order to qualify for the competition, students are encouraged to apply their knowledge of math to the Georgia Math League, six written math contests spanning over six months.


Mr. Amar, the math department head, said Lovett joined the Georgia Math League to better prepare students for the rigorous AMC competition.


Because the AMC differs from what is taught in the math classes and is intuitive, it is primarily offered to honors classes. Mr. Amar said you must have experience with math and be able to apply the concepts. However, Mr. Amar explained that anyone who is interested is more than welcome to participate.


If the contest still seems daunting, especially to lower-classmen, Mr. Amar explained that Geometry and Algebra II make up most of the test. Additionally, there is a 9th-10th grade test and 11th-12th grade test, so students will only be tested on what they have previously learned.


When I asked Mr. Amar why Lovett is participating in the AMC, two students, both in his Multivariable Calculus Honors, class perked up. ­­­­­Katie Kranz gave a good-hearted laugh, and said, “Because they hate us.” Michael Prop answered in a different way: “Math is fun!”


Many people think that when it comes to math, you are born with the innate talent to work with numbers or you’re not. Most people decide if they are skilled at math the first time they attempt to solve a problem; however, this is a misconception that can change one’s math career.


The following diagram demonstrates different people’s attitudes toward math. It is based on information from


This shows that it is truly up to you whether you succeed or fail. Your attitude can determine your math career.


If you followed the red lines, you are an entity theorist- someone who believes they are born with their talent, and nothing can change that. Entity theorists have a “fixed mindset” that being skilled at math is simply a gene; they presume they should not attempt to enhance their math skills because nothing will change.


However, if you followed the blue line, you are an incremental theorist- one who believes they can develop their skills. Because you believe you are adept at computing numbers or want to improve, you want to improve your talent even further and live up to your full potential.


Michael Propp, grade 12th, is an obvious example of an incremental theorist. Michael, who is in the top math class and placed 2nd in the AMC, explains, “Numbers came easily to me, but I still have to practice.” He noted that “you can’t just be good at math.” It helps that he enjoys solving math problems, except the memorization portion. He wants to major in either computer or electrical engineering, which are both math heavy majors.

Even though Georgia Norton, 9th, is in the honors math class now, she explained she has not always been great at math. When Georgia was placed in the highest math class in seventh grade, she had to develop her skills to keep up. “Although math never came easily to me, it became easier the more I practiced,” she said, clearly an incrementalist.


According to, in brain scans of people given challenging math problems, new connections were forming in the brain as people tried to decode the problem. These connections increase one’s intelligence, and based on this information, one can improve one’s IQ.


Other factors may contribute to how one excels at math, such as gender. In a study, girls with high IQs gave up on tests because they felt threatened by new material. Even though they outperformed boys on all other subjects, girls felt they couldn’t solve the problem due to the difficulty of the questions. This might help explain the large gender gap in the math and science job fields.


On WikiHow, it instructs you “How to Be Good at Mathematics.” Some solutions include: hire a tutor, practice, and learn the process to solve the problem. Not once does the article state, “you are bad at math, and you should give up ASAP” or “you were born to be good at math, stop practicing- you don’t need to.”


If you still think it is too late to improve in math, you are mistaken. Like anything, practicing helps grow your skills. Devoting more time to studying and changing your attitude toward math can make all the difference, whether on the AMC, or just on the next chapter in your textbook.

You may not be like Michael, who was able to do multiplication and division in preschool, but math can be easy as pi.


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