By Lizzie Patel ’21
Math has always been my favorite subject.
When I was getting ready to go into fifth grade, Mrs. Barnicle asked my dad if I would be interested in taking sixth-grade math, and he agreed without even needing to ask me, knowing that it would be something I would love.
So I was excited last year when Mrs. Scolan invited me to join the MPA group that was going to a local Middle School math competition. That weekend was an interesting one. I was a fifth-grade girl in a group of seventh- and eighth-grade boys, but I still had fun.
That day I met with Chicago’s smartest STEM kids and even took home second place in my group as an individual. That feeling — seeing my name flash up on the screen, hearing the cheers of my new teammates — was a sense of joy so great and so rewarding that I knew this was something I would always do.
Soon afterward, I tried out for a spot in a smaller group that would compete at the MATHCOUNTS regional competition. When we tested all I could think about was the other MPA students I was up against; most of them were in seventh and eighth grade. I thought that I had no chance.
I had to wait until the next morning to find out how I did, and a sense of dread filled me. I thought that there was no way I could be chosen to compete. And then something amazing happened: Mrs. Scolan called my name.
Lizzie Patel, the fifth-grader who sat quietly in the back of math class, was the last member of the team! I felt that same sensation again, that same feeling of pride and happiness. In that moment, I felt like I could do anything.