Pacific Trails Math League places second in state contest

Pacific Trails Math League members Tony Qu, Justin Luo, Ethan Song, Grace Wang and Coach Jeffrey Wang.

The Pacific Trails Math League is having its most successful year yet.

The Pacific Highlands Ranch middle school team took home third place awards in the San Diego regional MATHCOUNTS competition and went on to place second in the state at the California state competition at Cal Baptist University on March 30. The team was composed of students Ethan Song, Grace Wang, Tony Qu and Justin Luo.

The group is student-led by coach Jeffrey Wang, a sophomore at The Bishop’s School and a member of Pacific Trails’ first graduating class.

“These students were really motivated,” said Jeffrey, noting that their amazing accomplishments are helping to put the four-year old school on the map.“I feel very proud because I came from PTMS and I think the achievement that we had this year really reflects well on the neighborhood and the school. I think it’s crazy because we’re only four years into the school- building process.”

math league
Members of the Pacific Trails Math League. Courtesy

From the beginning, the math league has been run by students. Jeffrey’s older brother David started the group in 2015 while he was a student at Torrey Pines High School and while portions of the Pacific Trails campus were still in trailers. As David is now a student at Columbia University, Jeffrey has taken over running the club with help from fellow student coaches and Pacific Trails alumni Ankit Bisain, Annie Zeng and Kenneth Zhang, who all attend Canyon Crest Academy.

The league has about 80 attendees at weekly meetings, working to develop number sense, logic ability, problem solving and expanding on the knowledge of what is learned in school.

“It’s called ‘competition math’ but I don’t like that name because it sounds intimidating,” Jeffrey said. “I call it just supplemental or enrichment math, because that’s what it is.”

Parent volunteers help out with some of the lessons and the group has also focused on wider community outreach as the students’ 90-page open-source curriculum guide is publicly available and has been utilized by other math clubs across the county.

The student coaches run study sessions and help get the league prepped for well-established national competitions such as MATHCOUNTS and AMC 8, a 25-question, 40-minute, multiple choice examination presented by the Mathematical Association of America.

Jeffrey said this year’s group of students are talented, driven and highly-motivated. In addition to their achievements at MATHCOUNTS, in the AMC 8 competition they had 15 Honor Roll qualifiers (students who score in the top 5 percent nationally) and six Distinguished Honor Roll qualifiers, students who scored in the top 1 percent nationally.

Jeffrey is looking to carry on the legacy that his brother started and ensure that the math league continues to be run “by students for students”—his goal is to serve as many students as possible.

As a Pacific Trails alum, Jeffrey is very proud that in only its fourth year, it is now ranked as the #5 public middle school in California by Niche.

“It’s really rewarding I think to see PTMS growing,” Jeffrey said. “In Carmel Valley, kids want to do great things and work really hard to achieve what they want to achieve. That’s something that makes me very happy.”

To learn more about the league and check out its curriculum, visit