By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science senior and Westborough resident Karthik Karnik earned his place as runner-up in the American Mathematical Society’s “Who Wants to be a Mathematician” competition, which was held Jan. 7 in Seattle, Wash. Karnik represented the New England region and was one of only 10 students selected from more than 2,300 students nationwide who qualified to compete.
The mere mention of a math word problem can make some people sweat. For Karnik, patterns have always been a fascination and math has always been one of his strengths.
“Maybe it is a family trait; my grandfather was a college math professor,” he joked.
Although Karnik participated in the math competition last year for the first time, he didn’t qualify for the nationals but felt it gave him great experience to prepare for this year’s competition.
The American Mathematical Society (AMS) incorporates the national competition into its annual meeting each year. The United States is split into 10 regions for the competition and one student from each region qualifies to represent that region at the semifinals. Karnik explained that to qualify for the New England region, he had to achieve the highest score on a test administered by the game’s technology sponsor, Maplesoft, using its online testing and assessment tool.
In Seattle at the national competition, the competition was a bit more intense – a game show format before an audience of some of the world’s best mathematicians. Contestants were given multiple choice math questions to solve, often being asked for an explanation of the solution.
As runner up, Karnik received a prize of $6,000 – half he keeps and half goes to the school’s Math Department.
What are his plans for the money? “I’ll keep spending half of it, successively, infinitely. I would never run out of money,” he said.
Karnik also had the rare honor as a high school student to present his research on probability theory during the math meetings at the conference.
Outside of math, Karnik is an avid chess player and participates on his school’s mock trial team. He also loves geography and finished in the top 10 in the National Geographic Bee while in middle school. He currently teaches a geography awareness class at his local library for students in grades 3-8 once a week.
Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science is a magnet school located on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s campus in Worcester and enrolls about 100 academically accelerated 11th and 12th graders emphasizing math and science. As seniors, students are actually enrolled in college classes.
“There are small class sizes so the student-teacher ratio is good,” said Karnik.
As his senior year is approaching its end, he looks ahead to college to pursue math and computer science.
“Mass Academy has helped me to become accustomed to college life,” he said, “except for living in the dorms.”
As part of the class superlatives, Karnik was nominated to be the most likely to be abducted by aliens.
“I like to explore different things that others don’t normally do,” he said.
The webcast of the entire competition can be viewed at the “2016 Who Wants to be a Mathematician” link at www.ams.org.