Here’s a good test of how well you remember high school math: • Step 1: Read the students’ team names from the eighth annual MC2 McPherson College Math Competition, held Oct. 16. • Step 2: See whether you understand them.
With the team names they selected for themselves, more than 190 area high school students from 15 schools who competed in the college’s annual math contest proved that “math people” possess humor and wit as well as intelligence.
The names included everything from straightforward puns [Divide & Conquer], to ones requiring solving a bit of trigonometry [“We are #Cos(0)” or “We are #1”], to names with a bit of both [“Just plane log(√-1)( √(a2+b2))” simplifies down to “Just Plane Logic”].
Even the slogan on the T-shirts had a math joke: Over an image of a beach was a right triangle with the phrase “Check out my tan lines” (that’s “tan” as in “tangent”). If none of this sounds familiar, don’t feel badly. These young “mathletes” are good.
One of the competitors was Jordan Cavanaugh, a junior at McPherson High School, who has been attending the competition for as long as he’s been in high school and took second in his grade level last year on the individual portion of the contest. While he enjoys the recognition and success, part of what he enjoys most is the social aspect of the day.
“I have lots of people I either met here or that I get to see here,” he said. “I also like competing because I like math.”
The morning started off quietly with the individual section of the competition, and Jordan Funk, math teacher at Solomon High School, took the opportunity to catch up on grading. He brought 15 student competitors to the contest and said they prefer McPherson College’s math contest to other options because the college makes it available for free. The contest helps to motivate some of his best students.
“Those are the kids who are the ‘A’ students,” he said. “They do exemplary on the state assessments. They enjoy competing against each other and seeing who does the best.”
After lunch, the atmosphere turned more playful - and much louder - as the group portion of the competition began. For this section, teams of four were allowed to collaborate to come up with an answer to 10 math problems. The answers were revealed after each question, which induced reactions ranging from celebratory high fives to slumped shoulders. As is typical for the contest, the question involving logarithms resulted in groans all over the room.
Laura Wurm, a senior at McPherson High School, had been too busy in high school before now to make it to the contest. But she was enjoying her one shot at math-contest glory and the day’s competition.
“I really like math,” she said. “My dad went to these kind of things all the time, so I hear about them from him.”
Dr. Michael Reynolds, professor of mathematics, said when he helped start the first contest, they were hoping for about 50 student competitors. That year and every year since, he’s seen hundreds of students take part.
Stephanie Herbster, assistant professor of mathematics at McPherson College, is helping with the competition for the first time as it’s her first year working at McPherson College. Herbster said she enjoyed watching high school students get excited about math.
She’s observed that poor math skills are somehow socially acceptable in a way that other skills - such as knowing how to read and write - simply aren’t. This contest gives those who excel in math a place to buck that trend, she said.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase their abilities and that it’s OK to be good at something that a lot of other people aren’t,” Herbster said. “And to be proud of that.”
The following high schools participated in the competition: Canton-Galva High School, Fairfield High School, Hillsboro High School, Inman High School, Little River High School, Marion High School, McPherson High School, Nickerson High School, Sacred Heart High School (Salina), Salina Central High School, Salina High School South, Solomon High School, Southeast of Saline High School, Sterling High School, and Trinity Catholic High School (Hutchinson).
The results of the competition are as follows:
Best Team Names • “Venn U Wish on a *” - Trinity Catholic High School • “All My Friends are √-1 and (a+bi)” [That is “All My friends Are Imaginary and Complex”] - Sterling High School • “Calc You Laters” - Little River Senior High School
Individual Winners by Grade Level 9th Grade • 5th: Dylan Wentzel, Salina Central High School • 4th: Emily Simon, Trinity Catholic High School • 3rd: Patrick Munsey, McPherson High School • 2nd: Hannah Jensen, Salina Central High School • 1st: Paxton Leaf, McPherson High School
10th Grade • 5th: Dalton Yoder, Nickerson High School • 4th: Kalen Moss, Hillsboro High School • 3rd: Kento Aizawa, McPherson High School • 2nd: Cho Woo Chul, Trinity Catholic High School • 1st: Sofia Garcia, Trinity Catholic High School
11th Grade • 5th: Rebecca Hawkinson, Little River High School • 4th: Wei Ren, Sacred Heart High School • 3rd: Kayla Mesh, Trinity Catholic High School • 2nd: Xiangmin Ye, Sacred Heart High School • 1st: Aiya Negmutulla, Little River High School
12th Grade • 5th: Ryan Horton, McPherson High School • 4th: Caleb Rettig, McPherson High School • 3rd: Cody Ptacek, Southeast of Saline • 2nd: Eric Banning, Trinity Catholic High School • 1st (And Overall Individual Winner): Brett Nurnberg, Southeast of Saline
Team Winners 5th Place: “Calc You Laters” - Little River High School • Emily Baldwin, senior, Skylar Johnston, senior, Aiya Negmutulla, junior, Kasey Zeller, senior
4th Place: “The i’s Have It” - Trinity Catholic High School • Eric Banning, senior, Katherine Brigid, senior, Brittnay Labenz, senior, Kaetlin Weninger, senior
3rd Place: “From Here to Infinity” - Trinity Catholic High School • Konner Brening, junior, Soﬁa Garcia, sophomore, Kayla Mesh, junior, Minha Shin, senior
2nd Place: “Mean es” - McPherson High School • Ethan Nadeau, senior, Caleb Rettig, senior, Devon Ronsse, senior, Kerrick van Asselt, senior
1st Place: “Perform 72” - Southeast of Saline • Taylor Green, senior, Brett Nurnberg, senior, Cody Ptacek, senior, Jim Weller, senior