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Justin Pan reigns as state math champ

Justin Pan at Columbia Elementary School earned the title of Alabama State Math Champion in MATHCOUNTS competition. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – Twelve-year-old Justin Pan, sixth-grader at Columbia Elementary School, earned the title of Alabama State Math Champion in MATHCOUNTS competition.

“Justin entered the regional MATHCOUNTS competition held at Liberty Middle School in February. He placed third and qualified for the state competition,” first-grade teacher Megan Hockey said.

The state meet did not use divisions because grades 6-8 competed against each other. The competition is divided into four tests:

* Sprint Round – Gives 40 minutes to complete 30 problems without calculator.

* Target Round – Includes four pairs of problems with six minutes per pair with calculator.

* Team Round – Allows 20 minutes to complete 10 problems with calculator.

* Countdown Round – Gives 45 seconds per problem without calculator.

For state, Pan earned the highest combined score in Sprint and Target rounds at the meet at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on March 11. Now as state champion, Pan has qualified to enter the national contest.

In other honors this school year, Pan was placed in the Distinguished Honor Roll with the American Mathematics Competitions (AMC-8) for middle schools, as well as the Achievement Roll with the AMC-10 competitions for high schools. He has earned first-place honors in Raider Math Challenge and math tournaments at Muscle Shoals, Cedar Ridge and Vestavia Hills.

“My grandfather, a retired math teacher, has helped me develop strong fundamentals in mathematics since I was a first-grader,” Pan said.

“I like to work with math because it’s amazing how many things are connected — for example, how Pascal’s Triangle and binomial theorem work out together. It blew my mind the first time I was told about the connection,” he said.

If he faces a problem too difficult to solve, Pan enlists his father’s help or “looks at part of the solution if available and goes from there. I also research the vocabulary I don’t know. I keep math from being boring by taking a break and doing something active after sitting at a table for a long time and starting to get restless.” 

To prepare for a tournament, Pan works on as many problems as possible and focuses on his weaknesses.

His parents are David and Trudy Pan. His homeroom teacher is Charles Sturdivant.

Justin participates with Columbia Math Team, Huntsville Youth Orchestra, local AAU basketball team and Eat Pie Institute. Justin’s hobbies are basketball, violin, speed-cubing with a Rubik’s cube, ping-pong and pen spinning.

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