ISM Stories

ISM Junior Max Peng competes in Berkeley Math Tournament

Max Peng, a junior at The International School of Minnesota, shines among some of the brightest mathematicians in the state after earning a spot on the Minnesota All-State Math Team. 

This week, he will be one of 14 team members competing in California at the Berkeley Math Tournament. The Berkeley Math Tournament, created in 2011, is a student-led competition designed to help inspire middle and high school students in mathematics. 

So how does someone become an all-state mathematician? From a young age, Max was drawn to numbers, problem-solving, and teamwork. Max even says, “I like logic. I’m a logic guy.” 

As a nine-year-old, Max demonstrated his skill at solving math problems without pencil or paper by competing on a live Chinese television show that required on-the-spot problem-solving in math, English, and Chinese. While still overseas, Max also studied math using the Japanese Kumon method and progressed up to pre-calculus level. He won several awards before he even started middle school.

Head of Mathematics, Janet Mahr says, “Max’s teachers and his math team coach, Mr. Geistfeld, all describe him as a human calculator and a determined problem solver.”  

Krista Groff, Max’s math teacher adds: “Max can look at a problem and correctly solve it in unexpected ways that show he has a deep understanding of mathematics.”

“As a Junior, Max is one of three students in Discrete Math with me,” says Mahr.  “This class is traditionally a second-year college course. It amazes me that pretty much every topic I bring to the class is not new information, but things the students have all studied and learned to be better at Math Competitions”

The Berkeley Math Tournament is just one in a myriad of math-related competitions in Max’s life. On November 7th, right after returning from California, Max will compete with his teammates on the ISM High School Math team at the first Minnesota State High School Math meet of the year. Directly after that, on November 10th, he will participate in the American Mathematics Competition being held at ISM for all interested high school students.

Although Max is very active in the Math world, his role isn’t always about competition. Mahr adds that Max loves teaching problem-solving to other students: “He is unfailingly upbeat and ready to help out anyone anytime with anything and everything.” For instance, Max has expressed his interest in helping with the Middle School MathCounts Team next term.

But for now, his focus is Berkeley, home of his “dream school,” and he hopes to meet with UC-Berkeley alumni attending the competition. ISM is proud to have Max Peng representing us and the state of Minnesota at the Berkeley Math Tournament.

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