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East Ridge student to test math mettle at Harvard

East Ridge High School senior Lucy Yang, of Cottage Grove, will be competing in the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Competition, held on the Harvard University campus, this Saturday, Feb. 22. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

Mathematician Paul Lockhart said it best, according to East Ridge High School senior Lucy Yang: “A mathematician is a creator of patterns. Someone who works in the medium of ideas and thoughts.”

“Math homework didn’t hamper me and it wasn’t something that I complained about that much,” Yang said. “It’s fun going beyond the busy work and being able to see the ideas in the math and the patterns.”

Yang will put her math skills to the test on a national stage this Saturday, Feb. 22, when she competes in the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Competition. The competition takes place on the Harvard University campus.

“I’m really excited, but I’m a little nervous because I’ve never been there,” she said. “But that makes it more exciting because I won’t know exactly what is going to happen.”

Students from across the country will compete in team rounds and individual rounds in a number of math areas including algebra, geometry and “combinatorics.”

“I really love geometry,” Yang said. “I like  working with special and dimensions and objects.”

A passion for math

Yang, of Cottage Grove, developed an interest in math early on because it came easy to her.

“I was, and still am, very lucky that I’m quick in processing or at least have a good short term memory,” she said. “I can solve problems pretty quickly.”

It was in seventh grade that Yang decided to take math beyond just the classroom when she began competing on her school’s math team.

“I love that wonderful moment when you see something that makes sense and you solved a problem two different ways or something,” she said. “I enjoy the creativity and expression of math because with most problems, there’s more than one way to solve it – there really isn’t a best way.”

Yang continued to compete on the math team through high school where she became one of the top scorers, which gained her an invitation to compete on the Minnesota All State Math Team the past two years.

Yang was invited to compete in the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament, along with other members of the All State Math Team, by her coach.

“Lucy is outstanding at preparing for math meets and is a wonderful teammate,” said Rick Sullivan, East Ridge math teacher and Math Team coach. “She was one of the reasons why the East Ridge Math Team was invited to the state tournament last year.”

Yang said she hasn’t been doing specific preparation for the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Competition.

“I haven’t been doing much short term preparation,” she said, “but I think this whole math competition career has been a preparation.”

Since Yang is graduating this year, this is her last opportunity to be a part of math competitions as a competitor. However, she said she would love to write math problems for the competition someday.

Even though Yang will be facing off against students from around the country for the top prizes at the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Competition, that’s not why she’s going.

“I actually really don’t think about that too much,” she said. “I just do math because I love it.

“If I win, that would just be icing on the cake.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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