Five dedicated 7th and 8th grade students from Haddonfield Middle School found themselves in the MATHCOUNTS South Jersey chapter competition at Rowan University Feb. 1.
The Bulldog team — comprised of Brian Meng, Dash Lin, Alex Nuckols, Cole Bauman and Hayden Brand — finished first overall out of 135 participating students. Lin, Meng and Bauman placed first, second and fifth, respectively, during individual trials.
It was a victory months in the making, according to HMS 8th grade math teacher and team leader Daria Resnick.
“We’ve been practicing since September,” she revealed. “They practice every morning, and for the past month or so, they’ve also been practicing during lunchtime also, as a team. Because one of the rounds in the competition is a team round, they have to practice working together.
“It’s an hour a week,” Resnick added. “We meet Thursday mornings, and then we were doing three to four hours for the past month to get ready.”
According to the teacher, the team round consists of 15 timed questions and each one varies in its level of difficulty, so each correct answer gives participants more points than getting other questions right
As HMS placed first in the team round and two team members ended up first and second in the individual rounds, a state competition awaits.
“There’s two different rounds to determine who gets into the final round, and that determines the winner of the individual,” Lin explained of his process in the individual round. “It’s supposedly 30 fast problems in 40 minutes. As you go through, it’s pretty easy, but into the later numbers, they get much harder.
“I just wanted to get through the first 20 problems pretty quickly so I had more time to spend on the later ones” he added. “It feels good. I got a lot of practice done, did a lot of work leading up to the moment, and we also feel that we have more challenges ahead.”
Resnick said with two of her students facing each other for the individual crown, there was no pressure in deciding for whom to cheer.
“The final countdown round was between Brian and Dash,” she said. “Not very often do you have two finalists from the same school. It was exciting, because you’re rooting for both of them and no matter what the outcome, it was like a friendly competition among classmates.”
The next step for these intrepid mathletes is the state competition at Rutgers University on March 14. They students will square off against the other handful of schools that won their respective chapter competitions. Should their success continue, it’s on to Orlando for the national competition in May.
Resnick said she’s doesn’t plan on ratcheting up the intensity of the competitors’ practices to match the expectations and competition level of the next tournament.
“I think we might keep it the same to reduce stress and kinda keep the same level of easy going,” she explained. “Let’s just work together and see what we know and see what we don’t. I think that each of them brings a different skill set, in terms of the type of math they’re comfortable with and the level of assertiveness.
“There’s only so many resources we can use to practice from, so I think if we practice more, we might just be repeating the same questions, and then I don’t know how beneficial that would be,” Resnick added.
“How we’re going to practice from here on out, is to use questions (MATHCOUNTS released) from past competitions.”
According to its website, The MATHCOUNTS Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that reaches students in grades six through eight in all U.S. states and territories with its three extracurricular math programs. More than a quarter million students participate in its programs or use its resources each year.