After six months and six contests, Taft mathletes walked away with an impressive second place finish in the highly competitive New England Mathematics League (NEML) contest.
The Taft team rose to the top early in the competition, but there were schools at their heels throughout the tournament, and they weren't sure how they would fare until the final tally was taken. Of course, the team knew they would do well after a perfect fourth round, but they also knew that a lot could happen in two remaining contests. Taft was in second place going into the fifth round, but Boston Latin eclipsed their performance to take sole possession of second place with only one contest remaining, making for high drama through the final round of the competition.
In the NEML contest, students from more than 150 secondary schools across New England face off in problem-solving events once each month starting in October and ending in March. These monthly contests challenge competitors with sets of six problems of increasing complexity. Students work individually to solve each problem, earning one point for each correct answer, and each team reports its top five scores from the round to build a cumulative ranking. Taft's Zhiyuan (Leo) Li '19 not only sat for all six tests, but also earned a perfect score on each. Li finished the competition as the top individual competitor, and was the only student of the well over 1,000 participating to achieve a perfect score on all 36 problems.
"Of course, one perfect contest is a feat in itself," said Math Teacher and Team Coach Joseph Zipoli '84. "But to be thorough and perfect through all six contests is very, very difficult. Leo has a way of remembering situations in mathematics, which means his approach to problems is informed and deliberate. What's more, his reasoning and computational skills are quite impressive."
Benjamin Le '21 finished the competition in a five-way tie for fourth place, earning 33 points over the course of the competition. Bill Lu '19, Linh Vu '21, O Wanichkul '18, and Peter Yu '20 each turned in impressive performances, which also included several perfect scores along the way. In fact, in the "High-Scoring" category provided by NEML at the end of the competition, all five of Taft's lead mathletes placed in the top-ten cumulative scores—which says a lot about the team's depth.
Final Scores (Cumulative):
1st place, Philips Andover, 177 points
2nd place, Taft School, 168
11th place, Hotchkiss School, 143
20th place, St. Paul's, 124