Pellissippi State math students take top honors in Southeast

Jingxing Wang
Jingxing Wang, a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School who is taking dual enrollment classes at Pellissippi State, was the top scoring individual in the Southeast in the 2019-2020 Student Mathematics League competition. (Photo courtesy Jingxing Wang)

Pellissippi State Community College not only finished first in the Southeast in the 2019-2020 Student Mathematics League competition, but also had the top individual in the region — a dual enrolled student who is still in high school. 

Jingxing Wang, a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School, finished first in the Southeast. Wang, who has completed 10 hours of college credit at Pellissippi State, is taking Calculus-Based Physics this fall and is registered for eight hours of classes this spring. 

“I like to do any type of math competitions, and this one was quite similar to the other ones I’ve taken,” said Wang, who is applying to four-year colleges now with his sights set on University of Chicago. “I don’t know what I will do when I grow up, but I really enjoy theoretical physics and cooking. I also want to write a book. 

“He is truly remarkable,” said Spencer Joy, dual enrollment specialist for Pellissippi State. 

Pellissippi State has a tradition of math excellence, having finished first in the Student Mathematics League competition in Tennessee every year since 2009 and having had two other students finish first in the region: Lily Turaski in 2016-2017 and Trevor Sharpe in 2011-2012. 

This is the first time the College has placed first in the Southeast, however. 

“We were 20th nationally, which also is the highest we have been,” said Associate Professor Robert “Bobby” Jackson, who coordinates the annual competition for Pellissippi State. 

“This speaks volumes about our professors and our students,” addeJudy Fethe, interim dean, Mathematics. 

The Student Mathematics League competition is sponsored by the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges and is comprised of two rounds: one in the fall and one in the spring. 

The competition is open to any Pellissippi State student, Jackson explained, and close to 100 students usually participate. Those who compete have one hour to answer as many of the 20 questions as they can. Questions may involve precalculus algebra, trigonometry, synthetic and analytic geometry, and probability. 

“These are very challenging questions,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to answer all 20 questions in one hour.” 

Pellissippi State held the second round of the 2019-2020 competition on March 13, the last day students were on campus due to the pandemic. They tested in the Goins Building Auditorium and another classroom so that they could adhere to social distancing guidelines, Jackson noted. 

The five highest ranking teams, as well as the team and individual champions from each of AMATYC’s eight regions, receive plaques at AMATYC’s annual conference each fall, although this year’s event was held virtually. 

Meanwhile, the 2020-2021 competition has been canceled due to the pandemic. 

With most colleges in remote operation, we do not think it is possible to run the competition,” writes Student Mathematics League Coordinator Steve Hundert in the AMATYC newsletter. “For students looking for a challenge as well as some friendly competition, we will instead be running the AMATYC Online Challenge, which will be comprised of problems from past SML contests.” 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400. 

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