Gunn Math Team accomplishes rare feat: takes home the W in the Harvard-MIT Math Tournament


On Christmas day of last year, the November Harvard-MIT Math Tournament (HMMT) competition announced that team “Gunn Black,” consisting of Alan Lee, Roger Fan, Steve Zhang, Andrew Peng, Alex Gu and Ayush Aggarwal, had won first place overall. The HMMT is a bi-annual math tournament that takes place once in November and once in February. The November tournament is divided into an individual round, a team round and a Guts round. 

In the 50-minute individual round, each student on the “Gunn Black” team answers 10 short-answer questions covering mainly algebra, geometry and combinatorics. Math Circle President and “Gunn Black” team member Alan Lee recounts his experience during the individual round. “During the test, I consistently doubted whether my score was good enough because based on past results my projected score would not be [high] enough to place,” he says. “However, I think just focusing on the problems helped a lot”.

After the individual round is a 50-minute team round. In the team round, all students on the “Gunn Black” team collaborate to collectively solve 10 short-answer questions. As suggested by the name, good team chemistry is vital to succeeding in this section of the tournament. “Our team knew each other very well and were not afraid of trying to point out alternative methods or mistakes,” Lee said. “This helped us [get] things done without any negative feelings.” 

Teammate Alex Gu agrees with this sentiment. “We knew each other well enough that we could prioritize our time more effectively and [feel] motivated to do our best,” Gu said. 

The final round is known as the Guts round. In the Guts round, each team receives a set of three questions from the question desk and has to solve all three questions before proceeding. Unlike the team or individual rounds, questions in the Guts round are graded live. The live scoring made the team much more motivated to try harder and stay ahead of the other teams, says Lee.

“Gunn Black” team member Andrew Peng recounts the hard work that allowed them to place first, starting from the consistent individual practice that would allow him to optimize his efficiency during the competition. 

While not all students are as inclined to study math, Gu has this piece of advice: “Don’t be afraid to try out high school competitions as there are numerous clubs on campus devoted to helping guide you through them, whether it’s humanities, arts or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).”