Math Team pushes through travails of competition

Alex Goldstein, Contributor

The room goes quiet as the panel of judges at Whitney Young Magnet High whisper in their seats, sheets of paper stacked in front of them. After a long five minutes, the group disperses and each judge sits up, a look of attentiveness in their eyes. Their decision has been made.

Third Place: Oak Park-River Forest.

OPRF’s freshman math team files out of the room quietly after graciously accepting their award. There are no celebrations, only an aura of relief after the tense moments of waiting.

The team knows not to celebrate. Their performance has given them a momentum boost. It’s on to the next one from here.

The freshmen placed third with 48 out of 75 points in their math competition at Whitney Young on Feb. 5. “They did really well,” said senior math team member Garrett Credi, who placed second individually in his field with 48 out of 50 points. “It was a nerve-racking but good experience.”

In a typical math competition, there are two “parallel” competitions. Freshmen and juniors compete for 30 minutes, and seniors and sophomores compete for another 30 minutes. Each level competes in a different field of mathematics, taking a five-question test with each new question weighing more than the last. Credi competes in the ‘Orals’ field.

Oral competitors usually start in a locked room. The proctors give each competitor seven minutes to solve three problems and 10 minutes to present each problem.

“I’m pretty happy about (it),” Credi said of his second-place performance.

While math competitions may seem like extra homework to some, the organizers of each competition find diverse ways to bring teams together; the “Candy Bar Competition” is the most popular.

“All the teams come together and (receive) a set of 24 problems, and (whichever team) gets the most right gets a box of candy,” said Credi. “It’s probably the most fun part of the competition.”

Overall, math competitions are enjoyably meticulous. At each and every practice, teams must learn to solve college-level math problems quickly and concisely while creating a fun, relaxing classroom atmosphere. Credi said team chemistry is vital in winning important competitions.

“Everyone on the math team is pretty cool. You’re with problem-solvers, you learn how to problem-solve, you help others problem-solve,” he said. “You’re going to be with people who are passionate about learning these topics.”