Maria Mihai and her mother were overwhelmed with excitement when they found out years of dedication to improving her math skills had paid off.
“We both just started screaming,” said 14-year-old Mihai of passing the Canadian Open Math Challenge this week.
The competition is hosted by the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS), and winning it comes with a chance for Mihai to earn a spot on Team Canada in the Math Olympiad. Of the 8,000 students who enter, only around 50 are offered the chance to write the team selection test which is taking place this weekend.
The European Girls Math Olympiad is a dream that Mihai has been chasing for years.
“I think in fourth grade, a teacher at Dalhousie, she was holding a math club and she was talking about it, and I talked to my mom about doing it,” said Mihai, a student at Lockview High School.
“The contest is for the best 15 girls in Canada, so I’m really excited,” said Mihai.
Mihai has always had a passion and talent for math — a trait that runs in her family.
“My grandmother actually teaches math and she used to give lessons to me when I was younger,” she said, “and my parents are both really, really smart as well.”
Over the years, Mihai has participated in many math-related workshops and competitions.
She credits her parents and younger sister Ana to supporting and encouraging her throughout the years.
Ana Mihai shares her sister’s passion for math.
“Between me and my sister, it’s going to be a little tense. Whenever she does one of those really big contests I’m like, ‘come on, you got to do it really good,'” said Ana.
She said it’s important that Maria does well, “otherwise, I’m going to be like: ‘well, if my sister can’t do it, I’m never going to do it,'” she said.
Maria said even though she may not win a spot in this year’s Olympiad, she is looking forward to seeing where she can improve. “Now that I know I can do this, it’ll be better if I prepared more,” she said.
She is encouraging others to put themselves out there and commit to something they’re passionate about.
“You don’t have to be scared of failure, everyone has a starting point.”
She said “practice honestly does make you pretty close to perfect.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated Jan. 26 with a correction to reflect that the Canadian Open Math Challenge competition is hosted by the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS).