Friday, March 10, 2017

Math students taking on a challenge for the love of learning!

Today's post is from AP Calculus teacher Lisa Paul

I am excited to write about Moody's Mega Math Challenge, an event in which five of our seniors took part: Ariel Crawford, Sean Engelhart, Adam Fish, Andrew LaFortune, and Garrett Ryan. But before I get started, let me share a bit of my background.

I am a blessed individual. I get to spend 48 minutes every single day working with talented, motivated and enthusiastic students in the math classroom, much like any math teacher in any district. But in our small and tight-knit community, I often get to observe the development of these mathematicians over the course of consecutive years. It gives me the chance to surely know my students. And yet, do I really?

Attending any extracurricular event in our district is a thrill. Knowing virtually everyone out on the field or in the game brings a huge level of excitement to every contest I see and an even bigger sense of pride in the students I teach. Observing them in an environment different from the classroom is eye-opening. The unique interests and aptitudes of our student body never ceases to amaze me.

Moody's Mega Math Challenge was no different. The five seniors mentioned above clocked into school at 7am on a Sunday. They had 14 hours from clock-in time to solve a problem. Now, being the expert problem solvers that these AP Calculus BC students are, one might think that 14 hours was a generous amount of time. Afterall, they've been successfully solving for x for many years:) However, the problem they were tasked with has no unique answer. It was complicated. It was messy. It was real. It was unlike anything they've ever faced. And these brilliant minds annihilated the challenge in a time of 13 hours and 24 minutes. In a nutshell, they created mathematical models to assess how vulnerable 5 national parks in the US are to sea level changes, hurricanes, and fires and to predict how these types of catastrophic events would affect the attendance and financial status of the parks. Those interested can find the exact question along with all of the details of the challenge here :

I am incredibly proud of these five students. They set their minds to work until they solved the problem, even if it took almost 14 hours on a Sunday. Their collaborative efforts were a sight to behold. They each took part in the rigors of the problem and each took part in the technical writing of their detailed solution. Their solution paper was an exquisite, 16 page document, which included graphs, tables, equations, and expert analysis. Near the end of their exhausting 14 hours together, I walked into a room full of professionals. It looked like they had been through this punishing process many times over. They were typing furiously, proofreading each other's work, retesting their projections and recapping their conclusions. And they were doing it all respectfully with smiles on their faces. They were enjoying the moment and felt the well deserved pride I share with them in their accomplishments of the day.

These MWHS scholars took on this challenge for the love of learning and for the experience. They were one of 1406 teams in the country competing for one of 6 prizes. Though I am hopeful that their outstanding work will be recognized, the richness of the day is a prize in and of itself and the students know this. In this district, I am proud to say that our students find joy and take pride in so much more than just their classroom achievements. They have much to offer and many layers to get to know. I am fortunate to have seen a glimpse of another one of those layers in these five.

Sean, Andrew, Garrett, Adam and Ariel
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