York’s Math Team poses in front of University of Illinois’s mathematics building. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Wit)
York’s Math Team poses in front of University of Illinois’s mathematics building.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Wit

Math Team d(e)rives their season home at state

May 17, 2019

Some people love math. Some people can’t stand it. But for these students, math is more than just a class. It’s a competition. On May 4, York’s Math Team faced their biggest competition of the year: the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics State Competition.

Early Saturday morning, the team threw on their kelley green math team shirts, loaded up on donuts, and boarded the bus to head to the state meet, hosted at the University of Illinois. After the two-hour drive, students from all across the state joined together in a lecture hall for the opening ceremony and sang the ICMT anthem before preparing for their events.

“The biggest event is the written competition,” said senior co-captain Jacob Wit, who is one of the four-year members on the team. “Everybody competes as an individual on a twenty-question test with progressively harder questions and a fifty minute time limit.”

Beyond the written competition, the team also tested their intellectual might in the duos, eight-person, calculator team, and oral competitions, each with their own unique challenges. Fortunately, the York team earned the right to compete in each event at state after their domination of the regional competition. State, however, is a whole different beast, as the Dukes faced off against the best that Illinois had to offer, and the questions only got harder and harder.

“It’s pretty difficult material,” junior Emily Dow said. “It’s not just what you learn in school. It’s a mix of random applications from a bunch of different topics.”

In between events, the team put away their pencils and calculators and took some time to relax. This involved grabbing some brain food, touring the campus, and, of course, playing the annual games of ultimate frisbee out on the university quad.

“Well, we try our best to play [ultimate] frisbee,” Wit said. “There aren’t many athletes on the team, but we make it work.”

Seniors Mollie Grasse, Joseph Black, Will Phillips, and Justin Pajak play ultimate frisbee out on the University quad. Photo courtesy of Jacob Wit.

After all the competitions are over, the teams gather once again in a lecture hall to hear the results from the math-filled day. While York typically does well at the state competition, the team falls in the extremely competitive 4AA division and, therefore, is pitted against some of the best math programs in the state. Yet, despite the placement, York was incredibly successful this year as they took 15th overall. Along with that ranking, the seniors took 17th, the juniors received 12th, the sophomores ended in 19th, and the freshman broke into the top ten and earned 9th in their grade level.

At the end of the day, the York team boarded the buses and headed back to Elmhurst, reflecting on the competition and the day around it. While some people can’t imagine anyone spending their free-time doing math for fun, the members of York’s math team know exactly why they joined.

“I really like math,” Dow said. “The team allows me to use it for problem-solving instead of just as a part of a class.”

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