Math history repeats itself at High Point

| 17 Apr 2014 | 02:56

High Point Regional High School has earned honorable mention distinction for the second time in four years in the Moody's Foundation Mega Math Challenge.

The competition is sponsored by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematcis. Linda Abrams, a 20-year math teacher, teaches Algebra I and II and honors pre-calculus. She got students from the school involved with the challenge from the very beginning.

"I am nothing but a cheeleader, quite honestly," she said.

In 2012, teams representing 43 schools were recognized with Honorable Mention distinction. High Point Team No. 1103 achieved this status and was awarded $1,000 in scholarship money to be evenly distributed among team members.

This year, High Point Team No. 3169 made up of five seniors — Brian Perez, 17, and Catherine Henckel, Sahil Suri, Aaron Wannemacher and Brandon Webster, 18 — received the same distinction and prize of $200 each, placing High Point as one of 53 schools recognized with Honorable Mention status. Of the 1,152 papers submitted to the challenge, 200 (17.4 percent) advanced to the second round of judging, 65 (5.6 percent) of which were deemed worthy of recognition.

"All five members were students in my honors pre-calculus class last year, and I am so proud of them," Abrams said. "They amaze me."

Accordingly, teams are judged via the 20-page maximum research papers they must complete in one day and submit online. On March 9, the team spent 14 hours completing the assignment.

Wannemacher said last year, the challenge required teams to design a recycling plant.

This year, the challenge, according to Henckel, dealt with high school students and reforming lunch policy

“The prompt asked a social problem that required us to use math to find a solution," she said. "We had to figure out caloric needs for the average student based on growth charts and other information.”

The prompt was made up of three sections. Part I consisted of creating a model that could be used to determine caloric needs for each high school student depending on that individual’s height, weight, age, activity level, gender, etc. In Part II, the team was required to find the distribution of high school students that are within each of the mentioned categories (ex. gender). Part III called for the creation of a lunch menu that would please the high school students, remain within a weekly budget of $7 per student and be cost-effective and healthy.

"While we spent most of our time researching, Coach Abrams kept us sane," Suri said. "She wasn't allowed to assist us at all, but she was there for motivational support. With budget expenses, we were forced to limit ourselves from the things we originally wanted. Our menu in Part III went from providing students with a slice of pizza, a sub and a salad on Tuesdays to just pizza and carrots. From doing the challenge, what I can take with me is this: eating breakfast in the morning is important.”

“I’m proud of our accomplishment, but not of how many cups of coffee I drank that day,” Henckel said. “If any of us ends up working in a business firm, we can now say, after completing the challenge, we have some experience working with a team to find solutions to real-life, modern problems.”

When Team No. 1130 achieved Honorable Mention in the competition two years ago, High Point was invited to introduce a brand new Mathematics National Honor Society chapter at the school, Mu Alpha Theta, of which Abrams serves as chapter adviser.

All five members of Team No. 3169 were inducted into Mu Alpha Theta during the 2012-13 school year.

“[Abrams] is a great motivator," High School Principal Jonathan Tallamy said. "She gets students working collaboratively as they progress through the daunting 14-hour time period. In the students completing the challenge and being recognized for their efforts, it goes to show how powerful self-motivation and drive is.”

Demonstrating keen interest in pursuing STEM related subjects, all five team members plan on continuing their education post-secondary. Wannemacher will major in mechanical engineering, Webster and Suri in aerospace engineering, Perez in physics and Henckel in biology.