Hundreds of students heading to Richmond for huge mental math competition

While most may rely on their cellphone’s calculator to solve simple math problems, hundreds of students will descend on Richmond this weekend to showcase their prowess in a fading art: mental math.

On May 25, the sixth B.C. provincial Universal Concept Mental Arithmetic System (UCMAS) Abacus and Mental Math Competition is scheduled to take place at Westwind elementary in Richmond.

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Throughout the day, 350 Lower Mainland students will participate in a variety of competitions, solving complex math problems without the help of any tools like a calculator or scrap paper. The event brings together participants aged four to 13 who take part in an eight-minute challenge where they’re required to solve 150 to 200 math questions. In other challenges, participants are allowed to use an abacus.

The competitions are part of UCMAS’ 10-level program and this year, 14 students are graduating from the program in Richmond.

“They learn the ability to do mental math through the program and they use the abacus to learn visualization,” said Krishna Kumar, director of the UCMAS program in Richmond. “So basically what these children are being trained (in) and learn is to visualize numbers in their brain and do the mental math quickly.”

All 14 of Richmond’s graduates have achieved the baccalaureate designation, which is the highest level of mental math proficiency possible in North America

One recent graduate, Rishikesh Upath, was the first to pass with “distinction” in all of North America, which means he got 100 per cent of the questions correct in his final exam.

“It’s a long journey, level one to 10…to get through, it’s kind of a big achievement actually to not lose the hope because the complexity and the levels increase as you go through,” said Charuta Upath, Rishikesh’s mother, adding that she was excited that her son graduated with such high honours.

“When they say ‘distinction’ it means no mistakes…so that’s pretty good.”

UCMAS was first established in 1993 in Malaysia. The Canadian national competitions are the largest math competitions of their kind in North America with over 5,500 students participating.


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