Kavi Jain is taking his love of math to Harvard and MIT.
A 16-year-old junior at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, he’ll compete on the eight-member N.C. team Feb. 16 in the Harvard-MIT Mathematics Tournament.
While he has been on the math competition circuit since eighth grade, this is the first time he will compete in the Harvard-MIT event.
“It’s a big thing for me because I’ve never actually been able to compete in the Harvard MIT or Princeton Math Competitions before,” said Kavi. “We have a pretty strong team.”
He and teammates will have to jump through three heats to win the competition. First, they will have to take three individual tests in algebra, geometry, and combinatorics (essentially, counting), each with a 50-minute time limit. Then, in the relay-race-style, 80-minute Guts Round, they must solve 36 short-answer math questions. Finally, in the collaborative 60-minute Team Round, they must complete proof-style problems and be able to justify how and why they got the answers the did to get full credit.
While this sounds stressful, Kavi has cultivated a cool demeanor during his years in other math competitions. During his freshman and sophomore years at Myers Park High, he became state winner for the American Mathematics Competitions 10A and qualified for the junior USA Mathematical Olympiad at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.
He has also been known to fight to keep math competitions in his former school. While attending Myers Park, he and friends in math club pushed against cuts in funding for those competitions and, with the fundraising efforts of competition coordinator and math teacher Hema Lalwani, were able to keep the program.
“For someone like me, coming out of eighth grade already doing well at middle school competitions, if I wasn’t granted the opportunity to do high school competitions, it would be bad.”
Kavi was more focused on playing sports – such as tennis – as an early teen, then began to study for math competitions. After winning a state contest and going on to nationals, he began to enjoy the pressure and satisfaction of solving math problems in teams.
“It really showed me if I worked at it, I could get really good,” he said.
In his spare time, he still plays tennis, which he will do for his school this spring, and watches sports. Neurosurgery would be his dream profession, and he hopes to attend college at Duke University or UNC Chapel Hill.
“It’s a lot fun to spend hours working on something, even if it’s really hard. It’s just something that I like to do,” said Jain.