Can you imagine having your school day come to an end and then rushing off, happily, to Math Club so you can do even more math (and don’t forget that there is still your math homework to do)? Well, this may be difficult for many of us to imagine, but if you ask the 70 talented students who joined Smith Middle School’s Math Club last fall, they will look at you quizzically and say, “You mean you don’t love math?”
Boyd Blackburn, a math teacher at Smith Middle School, leads this group of intrepid math whizzes through challenging, twisting, and downright despicable math problems during the afternoons when other kids are kicking balls on the field or kicking back at home, resting. You know the kind of problems I mean – e.g., if one train started in Vicksburg at 10:23am and another train started in Chantilly at 9:47m and the train from Vicksburg made two stops, each lasting 7 minutes….. I won’t torture you anymore, but that’s one of the easy ones!
Smith Middle School’s Math Club is one of the biggest in the state. The 70 students who joined in the fall met once a week, after school, to tackle diabolical math problems. A competition was held at the end of November to identify the strongest 15 students. These 15 students became Smith’s Math Team, ready to compete head-to-head against other math teams across the state. The Math Team students at Smith were given the option to meet one afternoon a week to train, or to push it to two afternoons a week. The students chose two afternoons a week. Some even came into school early one day a week so they could do additional training.
Their hard work paid off.
At the State MathCounts finals, Smith took eight students, and all eight finished among the top 26 individuals in the state. Smith was led by Sarah Wu (ranked 7th) and Jennifer Zou (ranked 10th). The Smith team came in 2nd place in the state – their best finish ever.
At the NC State Mathematics Competition, Smith’s Algebra I and Geometry teams both came in 2nd place. In Algebra 2, Smith was fielding a team for the first time ever and they came in 1st place despite going up against mostly high schools.
A record eight students qualified for the Finals of the State Mathematics Contest: Sarah Wu, Jennifer Zou, Tejal Patwardhan, Lizzie Yang, Vijay Dey, Stas Kuzmenko, Matthew Dai and Andrew Zhang.
“They put in a lot of work, and the work paid off,” noted Smith Math Team coach Boyd Blackburn, “I was really proud of them.” Blackburn has been coaching MathCounts teams for 11 years, with the seven most recent years at Smith Middle School. “I am very lucky,” said Blackburn, “I’m the math teacher for the LEAP program and I get to coach these students on the Math Team too.”
Boyd is not the only one who feels very lucky. Undoubtedly, the 70 students in Smith’s Math Club are very lucky to have such a terrific leader.