Montclair High School rising junior Julia Schanen won first prize for her writing submission to the Steven H. Strogatz Prize in Mathematics competition held by the National Museum of Mathematics.
Schanen’s entry for the Strogatz Prize was a free-verse poem titled “Math Person.” The judges “were moved by the poem’s artistry and emotional power, its depth and raw honesty, its brilliant use of language and its eye for the unexpected but telling detail,” according to an announcement from Montclair High School.
“Math Person” conveys the isolation Julia felt as one of the only girls in the American Math Competition 10th grade and the intellectual isolation she still feels every day as someone who loves math deeply yet lacks a friend with whom to share it, the announcement said.
An excerpt from “Math Person” is below:
Mom offers to stop by Panera as a treat for all the painful math that I’ve just endured. Except it wasn’t painful.
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I’m someone who sat through the slow-drip of middle school math, bored and daydreaming, not seeing what it was all for, wishing – but never working up the guts to push – for more.
Not until now.
Now, I don’t want Panera.
I don’t want to be patted on the shoulder and misunderstood.
I want to go back into that auditorium and finish the exam and talk about it all night.
Schanen’s poems can be read here.