Washington Middle School 8th grader earns top score in state math competition


Washington Middle School eighth grader Evan Ho will be representing Hawai‘i at the national 2024 MATHCOUNTS competition later this year in Washington, D.C.

‘EWA BEACH — Washington Middle School eighth grader Evan Ho will be representing Hawai‘i along with three others – two from ‘Iolani School and one from Punahou School – at the national 2024 MATHCOUNTS competition later this year in Washington, D.C., after winning the state contest over the weekend.

Ho and his Washington Middle teammates Rui Cai, Noah L’Esperance and Choongwon Moon advanced as the top team from the Honolulu regional competition to the 2024 Hawai‘i State MATHCOUNTS Competition at ‘Ewa Makai Middle School on March 9. Ho emerged as the overall top scorer in the state competition.

“Pretty much the whole reason we study math is to compete in this competition," said Ho, who has been competing since sixth grade. (Pictured above, second from left.)

In total, roughly 20 public and private schools participated, including students from Highlands Intermediate, Kapolei Middle, Maui Waena Intermediate, Niu Valley Middle, Pa‘auilo Elementary & Intermediate, Waipahu Intermediate and Washington Middle. The Highlands Intermediate team under head coach Deborah Nakagawa also received an award for “most improved.” 

MATHCOUNTS is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to provide engaging math programs to U.S. middle school students of all ability levels to build confidence and improve attitudes about math and problem solving. 

The organization hosts four levels of competition – school, chapter, state and national. Students can advance as a team or individually for the state competition, where they compete for a chance to represent the state on a national level. View math problems from past competitions at mathcounts.org/resources/past-competitions.

According to Nhut Pham, Hawaiʻi’s state MATHCOUNTS coordinator, the amount of schools participating peaked at around 40, but decreased after the COVID-19 pandemic with some schools finding it challenging to create and rebuild teams.

Over at Washington Middle, mathematics teacher and MATHCOUNTS head coach Sung Park continues to encourage students to try out for and participate in the math team. Park, who was recognized in 2017 as the Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year, began competitions around 15 years ago after encouragement from Principal Michael Harano. Now, his students regularly make it to the top in both team and individual rankings for the Honolulu Chapter, which includes ‘Iolani and Punahou. 

“Now with Mr. Park, we actually have 40, 50, 60 kids competing from sixth grade to try to be in the top 12,” Harano said. 

In 2018 Park and his math team were featured in a documentary, “Korean Style in Honolulu,” that aired on KBFD after eight consecutive state wins. Park continues looking forward to an all-Washington Middle state team. “I’m very nervous everytime I come to competitions, especially nervous when they announce the top 10 score. Because I want my kids to be in the top 10.” 

Park enjoys countless stories of former students coming back to Washington Middle to assist and collaborate with his team and prepare for future competitions. Former students return to provide one-on-one tutoring and assist with building the sample bank of questions and answers that has over 30,000 items.

Schools and teachers wanting to find out more information or interested in participating in MATHCOUNTS can contact Pham at nhutpham@gmail.com.

Pictured: Washington Middle’s math team, with head coach Sung Park (first row, third from left) and Principal Michael Harano (first row, far right).

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