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The approaching holiday season is a reminder to give to those less fortunate and appreciate what we have. With that in mind, student volunteers from Orange County Math Circle (OCMC) planned and hosted the annual Thanksgiving Tournament on 7 November in the Campaigne and Performing Arts Centers at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School (SMES).

Of OCMC’s three tournaments, the Thanksgiving Tournament is the oldest. The competition is modeled off MATHCOUNTS, a popular national competition for middle school students. Similar to MATHCOUNTS, the Thanksgiving tournament included individual and team rounds, with awards for the top six individuals and two teams in each grade.

To further engage the younger audience of third to sixth graders, OCMC also planned an activity round. This final rounded was based off the popular card game 24, in which students used a math concept called the “Order of Operations” and the numbers from four cards drawn randomly from a card deck to achieve the number “24.”

Over the years, the event has expanded to also include a bake sale fundraiser and a toy drive, which benefits underprivileged students in the Santa Ana Math Circle. These opportunities allowed student participants to not only exercise the math skills they had developed through school, but also to contribute to their communities.

“All the students are so wrapped up in academics and full schedules,” said one of the lead adult volunteers Betty Yee. “It’s amazing to see so many students who love math come together to plan and event with their peers and friends and help more kids to follow their footsteps.”

After check-in for the tournament completed at 1 pm, University High School sophomore Neah Lekan and Northwood High School junior Angelina Ye, the tournament emcees, welcomed students and parents into the Campaigne center for the introduction. Throughout the day, the emcees guided students and volunteers through the rounds with various instructions and reminders.

In order to successfully run such a large event, parent and student volunteers were delegated various tasks, such as grading and proctoring, throughout the day. Additionally, preparations began weeks and even months before the tournament took place.

The two tournament directors Jason Ye and Natalie Yee, and numerous parent and student volunteers spent hours writing and compiling test questions, printiting signs, delegating responsibilities, and completing various other tasks. “Every year we try to see what we can improve upon,” said one of the lead adult volunteers Betty Yee. “Our goal this year was to reduce the number ‘no-shows.’”

Despite the hours of planning and various challenges involved with the event, volunteers and participants agreed that their efforts paid off tremendously. “Volunteers are able to see how important all their individual efforts were in pulling off such a successful event,” said SMES Math Department Chair Ryan Dahlem. “It never could have happened without them.”

The Thanksgiving Tournament’s main goal was to provide a free and exciting opportunity for over 130 young students to compete and express their love of math. Additionally, it allowed volunteers and students alike to give back to their community, whether through personal efforts or through the toy drive.

“There’s the bible verse, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,” said Dahlem. “I’ve been so impressed with the volunteers for living that out and giving back to younger math students and math clubs such as Santa Ana Math Circle.” After all, Thanksgiving is about the spirit of giving.