Contest puts local high school mathletes to the test

Thursday, April 22, 2010
Chaonan Teng, left, John McLain and Kenny Tiffany from Notre Dame Regional High School compete in the Mathletics event during the Math Field Day Tuesday at Southeast Missouri State University. (Fred Lynch)

Chaonan Teng, John McLain, Kenny Tiffany and Logan Buchheit, students at Notre Dame Regional High School, sat armed with scratch paper, pencils and two calculators.

"Don't touch anything until you're told," Linda Tansil said to a roomful of high school students prepped to do some quick calculations.

The Notre Dame group was one of 20 teams competing in a mathletics competition during Southeast Missouri State University's Math Field Day.

Students from 25 schools throughout Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois came to campus Tuesday to compete in the event.

During the morning, students took a series of tests to evaluate their abilities in topics ranging from the history of math to matrices and determinants.

During the afternoon mathletics team event, each group of four quickly flipped over a piece of paper that contained one of 11 questions to be done together under time constraints. Teams collectively calculated the average speed of a trip to see Granny, simplified multilevel fractions and figured the probability that Adrian, Bob or Carter would eat pork or ham on a given day.

Once time was called, 20 arms shot up to turn in the sheet containing the answer. Sometimes hands moved quicker than others, an indication of the question's difficulty.

"I don't know how you got that, but all right," Tiffany said after McLain jotted down one of the answers.

Event chairwoman Dr. Cheryl McAllister said the event is meant to stimulate interest in math.

"That's obviously the overreaching goal," she said.

Freshmen through seniors are tested and win awards in divisions according to school size, large or small, and grade level.

"This is a way to let students who have a talent in math shine," she said.

Adam LeGrand, a senior at Central High School, has participated in the event all four years of high school. This year he competed in the hand calculators event, among others. The exercise tested him on "everything you can find on a calculator."

"The hand calculation was pretty fun because I like messing with the calculator a lot," said LeGrand, who received first place in the event.

In the end, Notre Dame's mathletics team took first place ahead of a team from Central. Other teams from Notre Dame received the most first-place finishes. They also received top honors in trigonometry, algebra I, algebra II, problem solving and medley, a combination of subjects.

A Leopold High School team was top scorer in algebra, a Saxony Lutheran team took first in algebra I and an Eagle Ridge Christian School team received first place in medley.

For individual student awards, Notre Dame and Central each received four first-place finishes. Three Saxony Lutheran and Eagle Ridge students took the top award in their categories. Leopold and Oak Ridge had two top finishers. while Bell City, Mo., and Cobden, Ill., each had one first-place finisher.

abusch@semissourian.com

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