West Ranch High School senior Alyssa Chang is the first student invited from the Santa Clarita Valley to compete in The Advantage Testing Foundation/Jane Street Math Prize for Girls contest at the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology on Sunday.
Chang has been competing in math competitions, outside of school, since elementary school and has been awarded many titles.
“Math is where I really found my passion,” said Chang. “Math is where I really found that drive to continue this in college and beyond that.”
Along with competing, Chang helps teach math to children from an elementary level to junior high. Seeing these kids grasp concepts reminded Chang of the reason why she loved math in the first place.
“Seeing them have that ‘recognizing the concept moment’ has been really motivating for me,” said Chang. “I really needed that contact with younger students to rediscover what actually fueled my passion for the subject, instead of being focused on the title.”
Up until the high school level, Chang was gaining titles and awards left and right. She said there is a huge jump in the level of difficulty from junior high to high school math. This difficulty halted her titles and began to challenge her.
She didn’t give up or fall into sorrow. She worked even harder, reminding herself that math is her passion and something she wants to do for the rest of her life.
“I learned the most during the (first) two years (ninth and 10th grade) about how much determination I had for the subject because I didn’t win any titles outside of school, during the two years, for the first time,” said Chang. “I tried. I kept on going, that’s what really shaped me into a hard-working person.”
Chang’s determination paid off as she was invited to compete in The Advantage Testing Foundation/Jane Street Math Prize for Girls contest, an honor only 300 students from the U.S. and Canada are given. Only two people were selected from Los Angeles County and Chang is not only one of them, but also the first ever selected from the SCV.
The Math Prize for Girls’ goal is to promote gender equity in the STEM professions and empower young women with aspirations to work in the math and science field.
On Sunday, Chang will compete in a two-and-a-half-hour competition completing 20 problems at MIT. She will also be able to spend the weekend in an MIT dorm with an MIT student.
She is most excited for this, as MIT is one of her top college choices.