Working Out with the MathCounts Club

 Mr. Egeler’s classroom presents math the way a gym promotes exercise. The friendly, sunny space, where a plant by the window is held up with a yardstick, has   all types of work-out equipment—an assortment of Rubik’s Cubes, math games, and numerical equations on the white board. On Tuesday afternoons, when the MathCounts Club meets, the math-athletes are ready for fun.  

“My room number, 161, is a palindrome,” said Mr. Egeler.

“Like madam, kayak,” the kids respond. “Yo banana boy!”

“You know you’re a nerd when your screen saver is a math meme,” said one student, showing an image with this joke on his phone: “There’s a fine line between a numerator and a denominator. Only a fraction of you will understand this.”

MathCounts Club is part of a national math enrichment initiative. It is also a team with fall try-outs, weekly training, a competition season, trophies and prizes. Schools are limited to a four-person team, with up to six alternates.

Members of John Jay Middle Schools’s MathCounts competitive team are Jonathan Frantz, an eighth grader, Raymond Zou and Niels Van Ritbergen, both seventh graders, and Will Fenton, a sixth grader. Six additional sixth grade students compete as alternates: David Bond, Spencer Hadlock, Max Ngbokoli, Michael O'Donnell, Will Sanz, and Jack Shapiro. Mr. Egeler and Ms. Colaizzi, both math teachers, are the coaches.

Like most teams, MathCounts practices start with stretching. Last week, the warm up consisted of simplifying complex fractions within nested algebraic equations and converting base ten to base six. While the students stretch, easy banter, math-style, fills the classroom.

“If you are cold, go into a corner. It is usually 90 degrees.”

“Don’t go into a circle, you’ll burn—it’s 360 degrees.”

“It could be zero degrees if it is a full rotation.”

JJMS’ MathCounts team is preparing for their first competition this Saturday, February 4, at Pace University, against fifteen other teams in the Westchester/Putnam Chapter. The top three teams continue to the state competition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in mid-March.

They also compete in the MoMathlon, hosted by the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. The regional competition is in mid-April at Manhattanville College. The top two teams progress to the Tournament of Champions in May at the Museum of Mathematics.

 The team will face algebraic word problems, probability, number theory, geometry and some simple trigonometry, most at an 8th grade or higher mathematics level.

“MathCounts Club provides us with the opportunity to stretch some very bright young minds. Seeing these students in an environment where they thirst for more advanced problems is refreshing,” said Mr. Egeler and Ms. Colaizzi.

“These students are generally in need of a challenge. Most really enjoy a camaraderie that is afforded them by working though complex problems as a team.”