Students from Hudson Middle School had a successful showing at the MATHCOUNTS competition at the University of Akron on Feb. 2.
This competition tests middle school students on a rigorous set of math standards that include advance algebra, geometry, statistics, number theory and logic. The Hudson team faced tough competition from 18 other Northeast Ohio schools, placing third, which qualifies them for the state competition March 9 in Columbus. The Akron competition was sponsored by the Akron District Society of Professional Engineers, FirstEnergy Foundation, PTA Engineering, UA and The Engineers Foundation of Ohio and the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers.
Hudson team members included Margaret Chen, Alex Hanzlicek, Leo Bangayan and Riya Hegde. The team started practicing in September for this competition and the coaching, led by Rita Aggarwal, has been a group effort with much of the instruction done by Sean Scarnecchia, a Hudson High School student who excels in math and was a strong individual contender at the same competition years ago.
"I find that the younger students really connect with Sean and he keeps them engaged on the material which can be tough to do as math can get very rigorous and abstract," Aggarwal said.
This year is the first time the entire team will advance to state. Aggarwal says she is also very proud that Chen scored among the top 10 students in the competition.
"We had a very nice gender balance on our team, something that doesn’t always happen," Aggarwal said. "Gender disparity between girls and boys participating in this kind of competition is still very much a reality. Margaret was one of only two girls who made the top ten list at the competition."
Aggarwal and another parent, Professor Dandan Liu, started coaching a Hudson Middle School team for MATHCOUNTS five years ago when they saw the interest and aptitude of some of the students in math.
Aggarwal has continued coaching and says she appreciates the additional support she received this year from extended family members of one of the students, Chu Wan Tao, who gave a great deal of his time and expertise to working with the team; and Sohan Aggarwal.
Thanks to the wonderful teachers and family support that Hudson students receive, the interest in competitive math is growing.
"We are only allowed to take 10 students to this very competitive event and in addition to the four-person team that went this year, we took six other individuals — Keven Gong, Sneha Upadhyayula, Daniel Kim, Conner Butergaugh, Yeonwoo Yu and Max Bangayam," she said.
Not all schools have the interest that Hudson does, Aggarwal says.
"We had a much larger group that practiced and it was hard to limit the number that went to the competition," she said.
Aggarwal has formed a non-profit to encourage and support students who want to do well in math. The non-profit, MathLearningCommunity, provides after-school math classes at both the elementary and middle school levels. Interested students can check out the upcoming schedule of classes at www.mathlc.org.