Math Team takes second at RESA competition

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Wendy Willoughby

Junior Tom Zhao triumphantly holds his team’s second-place trophy from the Griffin RESA Regional 2014 Math Contest. His teammates are seniors (from left) Austin Palmer, Vivian Nguyen, Ricky Macke, and Morgan Stephens.

Erin Schilling, Staff Writer

Four varsity “mathletes” headed to the Griffin RESA 2014 Regional High School Math Contest with high hopes of winning. “These students are  dedicated,” Wendy Willoughby, math team sponsor, said. Every Wednesday morning at 7:45, the students try, check, and revise problems on worksheets used in previous meets with the assistance of their sponsors.

Hours of calculating equations paid off.  Seniors Vivian Nguyen, Morgan Stephens, and  Austin Palmer, and junior Tom Zhao,  placed second in Division 3.

The Griffin RESA High School Math Contest,which is open to all the schools in its  region, including the counties of Butts, Fayette, Henry, Newton, Pike, Spalding, Upson, and Lamar, had around 100 students participate. The three divisions are organized by school size,  and Starr’s Mill is in Division 3 for the largest schools.

 The contest is broken down into two parts. The first section is an individual written test, with the highest scores determining the individual winners. Stephens placed third overall in this category. “We have a very strong team, and we always hope for one of our students to place,” said J.B. Campbell, the other math team sponsor.

The second section is a ciphering competition in which a team of four works together to solve math problems. Teams receive one problem at a time, and points are awarded according to speed, or how fast a team submits the correct answer.  If the team finishes in one minute or less, it  scores the most possible points.

The storied rivalry between Starr’s Mill and McIntosh athletic teams spilled over into the academic arena too. McIntosh narrowly edged out Starr’s Mill to take first place.

“I thought it would be a battle between us and McIntosh for first place. It was a close one,” Willoughby said, who was proud of her team’s second place finish. “If you look at our scores compared to the rest of the schools, we did considerably better.” McIntosh scored 223 points, and Starr’s Mill scored 209 points.

Stephens is a four-year mathlete. “After the written portion, I had no clue I did that well. I was hoping to get 20 percent of the questions correct, so I was completely  surprised when I found out that I had placed,” Stephens said.  She has placed in competitions before in her math team career.  She said there is little pressure to win, and the practices every week help her and her teammates feel prepared for the meets. “It’s fun to just to compete with yourself and try to Morgan Stephens (right) accepts her third-place individual award at the Griffin RESA 2014 Regional Math Contest.do better at each competition.”

Both math team sponsors were proud of their team’s accomplishments. “They did exceptionally well, and I know they did their best,” Willoughby said.

The team consists of mostly seniors, and their experience and ability helped create a very strong team this year, said Campbell, who was recently named a STAR Teacher for 2014.