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Holladay Journal

Holladay brothers return to math competition in D.C. as student and coach

May 29, 2022 01:33PM ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Liam Reddy of Holladay recently returned from Washington, D.C., where he represented Utah in the 2022 Raytheon Technologies MATHCOUNTS National Competition. Liam took a good coach with him—his older brother Kiran, a three-time finalist on the team.

“I don’t know when my interest in math started, but it was early. My main motivator was the competitions I did at school, which my brother suggested I compete in. Now I do it less for the competition and more for the problem solving,” Liam said.

Liam, who is in seventh grade at the Waterford School in Sandy, was one of four students representing Utah at the competition May 7-9. The competition is open to sixth- through eighth-graders. It starts at the school level and ends with a four-person team from each state.  

“We have a middle school math club run by our teacher Hiram Gotza where we prepare for the competition during the year. Mr. Gotza gives us practice problems and helpful things to learn.

“He has a lot of handouts he’s made with certain techniques to use on problems. Once you learn enough of them, you can start applying them to the MATHCOUNTS problems,” Liam said.

Liam’s older brother Kiran is the one who suggested that Liam join the math club and get involved in contests. Kiran is in ninth grade, and has aged out of this particular competition. But he set a good example for Liam to follow.

“In 2019 when Kiran was in sixth grade he competed in the Raytheon Technologies MATHCOUNTS Competition and qualified for nationals. The next year was the pandemic.

“He took state that year in seventh grade, but nationals were canceled. Last year everything was online, and Kiran qualified for nationals again,” Liam said.

In 2021, the only year when both Kiran and Liam could compete together, they both qualified for nationals and took two of the four places on the Utah team. Liam won third place overall in 2021.

This year the event was held in person, so the whole Reddy family went to D.C. for the weekend-long competition. Liam went as a competitor, his brother Kiran as the team’s coach, and their parents Drs. Vivek and Cara Reddy as supportive cheerleaders.  

“This has been a fun experience for us as parents. The reality is we don’t push hard on this. The boys found it and have good connections at Waterford that have helped them get into the competition space.

“Sometimes we just sit back at the dinner table and marvel at their abilities,” said their dad, Vivek Reddy.

The national competition starts with a written portion which is closed to families. Eligible students advance to the countdown round, which is similar to a spelling bee, where problems are read aloud and contestants must be the first to answer verbally. This is open to the public.

Liam advanced to the countdown round again this year, and finished in the top 12 of 244 competitors.  

Back home in Utah, Liam and Kiran had one more math hurdle to clear: the Advanced Placement calculus test.

“We took AP calculus this year. It was mostly 10th- and 12th-graders in the class. I finished the course material during the first term. Since then I’ve done independent study,” Liam said.

Liam had to get special permission from AP testing officials to take the test. AP tests give students college credit and are usually taken in high school.

The AP test is given nationally on the same date, which was May 9 this year. Since Liam and Kiran were at the competition in D.C. that day, they took the make-up test May 20.   

Liam has many other interests. At school he also takes band, Latin and computer classes and runs cross country.

“I’ve learned a lot about the coding language Python. It’s a nice combination of my interest in computers and math,” Liam said.

He’ll likely get to compete again next year, but he said it’s not only about winning. “I just try to enjoy the problems and the experience. I care more about the experience than the competition,” Liam said. “I want to meet more people who enjoy similar things to me.”