By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
NORTHBOROUGH/SOUTHBOROUGH – Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) students who are members of the school’s math teams and its Mathematics Honor Society are not new to the kinds of challenges posed by COVID-19 and the 2020-2021 school year. In fact, solving problems is what these students enjoy doing – specifically, problems relating to geometry, algebra, probability and number theory.
The math teams typically hold practices and competitions from September through March each year. ARHS competes as part of the Worcester County Math League (WOCOMAL). Other schools they compete against include Westborough and Shrewsbury High Schools, St. John High School, and the Advanced Math and Science Academy.
Freshmen Math Team Coach and Math National Honor Society Advisor Eileen Falcone said this year’s in-person meets could not be held. Instead, competitions were held remotely and participants competed individually instead of as a team.
Despite the format changes, students adapted, competed, gained knowledge and had fun.
“It is a learning process,” said ARHS and Math Honor Society senior student Joshua Cheng. “Join if you enjoy math and don’t be shy about not knowing enough math. It takes practice.”
Freshmen math team member Isabella Palit, who started competing on math teams in middle school, agrees.
“It is more important to be excited about math and like math rather than being good at math,” she said. “You will get stuck, but you will get past the hurdle.”
Palit jumped the hurdles and was named the top freshman scorer and the recipient of the Tom Severance Scholarship.
Instructional Technology Specialist and Varsity Math Team Coach Brian Calnan further reflected on the success of his team this year. His team participated in a variety of competitions, some outside of the typical ones offered, and ARHS students earned top scores.
“You learn so much being on the math team,” said Falcone. “It’s not about not getting any problems wrong, it’s about working through some challenging problems with classmates.”
Cheng said that process of practicing and working through challenging helps to get used to other problems, some of which might not have been learned yet in class.
Alongside the ARHS math teams, the school also recently reinstated the Math Honor Society, incorporating math and community outreach in programming.
Students worked with second and fourth-grade students at Marguerite E. Peaslee Elementary School before schools were shut down in March 2020.
“They helped with math lessons, math games, and shared their excitement of math with younger students,” said Falcone. “They really enjoyed it and were disappointed we couldn’t continue. The impact these students had on second and fourth graders was so significant. We look forward to next year and hope to start working with other schools in the district too.”
Members also assisted Principal Sean Bevan in measuring optimal space to help students follow social distancing restrictions at lunchtime.
Falcone continues to spark interest in math for all students and help them see how math is involved in everything.
Hosting guest speakers, some of whom were Algonquin alumni who are pursuing career paths that use mathematics, and celebrating Pi Day in March are other ways math is brought into the lives of students.