Pandemic doesn’t stop GMR Math League from solving problems

 

This year’s GMR Math League team finished second as a team in the section, but one individual, Ryan Hlucny, did advance to state. Last month, the group posed for a group photo. They are (L-R): Front: McKenna Bennett, Honna Westlund, Elizabeth Gust, Olivia Brazier, Lauren Stenberg, Kinsley Hanson, and Cassie Dahl; Back: Vincent Stenberg, Jacey Wojchowski, Conner Wojchowski, Thor Anderson, Gage Zak, and Jaden Kostrzewski; Missing: Ryan Hlucny and John Novacek. (submitted photo)

Encountering and mastering material harder than one’s own homework equals enjoyment. For Greenbush-Middle River Math League senior Olivia Brazier that was the answer to what she enjoys about Math League.

“It’s also a very rewarding program because, although this kind of math is taught in our, at least in our high school, most of it,” Brazier said, “… They’re harder questions than what you would get on a homework assignment. So even just getting one or two correctly is really rewarding.”

Despite the current pandemic, the GMR Math League team had the opportunity to experience rewarding experiences such as this in the math department, still having a season this year, but in a virtual format.

After five meets, the GMR Math League capped the regular season last week with a second place section team finish and had a senior, in Ryan Hlucny, advance to his fourth Math League State Tournament, scheduled for March 8 and 15.

On January 14, several GMR Math League students and the team’s coach Tara Kern discussed the team, their reaction to math league still happening, the way it worked this year in a virtual format, the reasons they enjoy Math League, and their hopes for this season before it ended.

Beginning its regular season in early November and finishing in the second week in February, the GMR Math League team includes 15 students— eight of these varsity students. Two of these varsity students must be in tenth grade or lower.

The varsity students include: Thor Anderson, Olivia Brazier, Cassie Dahl, Elizabeth Gust, Ryan Hlucny, John Novacek, Lauren Stenberg, and Conner Wojchowski. The seven junior varsity (JV) students include: McKenna Bennett, Kinsley Hanson, Jaden Kostrzewski, Vincent Stenberg, Honna Westlund, Jacey Wojchowski, and Gage Zak.

For Jacey Wojchowski, she enjoys Math League for the team aspect of it— members putting their “smarts together” regardless if they are on the varsity or JV teams.

“Even though you have to practice on your own, you still have all your friends helping you and it’s not like you’re doing it alone,” Wojchowski said. “You always have people to refer to if you have questions or if you need help with one certain question that you were given.”

During each of the five meets throughout the season, students are put into two different individual events, including A, B, C, or D. Meets also include a team event.

On the GMR team, students bring different strengths. For example, Ryan Hlucny is strong in Geometry, Olivia Brazier in Trigonometry/Pre-Calculus, and John Novacek in Algebra and Pre-Calculus. At this point in her academic career, Jacey Wojchowski pointed to College Algebra/Algebra as her strength now.

“Only being a junior, I didn’t get the opportunity to take trigonometry last year,” Wojchowski said, “so the only I would say events I could really shine in probably (are) either college algebra or just the algebra portion of it.”

Even though much of this activity is individually-based— outside the team test— GMR Math League senior John Novacek highlighted the team aspect of this activity, despite it being held in a virtual format this season.

“There’s been definitely great cooperation this year and… getting together to work over questions,” Novacek said. “… Ryan (Hlucny), I’ve had the most experience with by using computer technologies that you can share the screen and work through the question together.”

Speaking of working through the virtual format, some things are different about this season and some things are similar. Practices, for example, Ryan Hlucny said, are similar to prior years, unless one is distance learning. In that case, these students have to practice from home. This works out for these students, as they are able to communicate virtually.

To aid with team communication, Hlucny created a Discord account for the team, an application team members can visit to discuss anything math-related online, including going over practice questions or meeting together.
Competition-wise, the team didn’t travel this year and had all their meets at the school or, for distance learners, from home.

“Basically, the whole math league system has been changed drastically,” Hlucny said. “It’s been completely moved online, so (for) all of the tests, it’s actually administered online, whether you do it in person or not. So the test, the questions, it’s all given online, which is actually kind of different.”

As for another difference, in normal seasons, students get to have figures drawn for them and draw them on a page, including, for example, drawing a triangle for geometry-related questions.

“When it’s on the screen, you don’t have that same help like you usually do,” Hlucny said.

Despite the difference, Math League Coach Tara Kern expressed her happiness in still being able to provide this opportunity to her students this year, especially for her seniors, most of them having been in Math League for all four years of high school.

“Especially with Ryan, he’s made it to the state tournament as an individual the last three years. So I was going to be kind of upset if he didn’t get to try and make it all four years this year,” Kern said. “So I was really excited that we got to still continue with the virtual Math League season.”

To see the complete story, read the February 17 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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