Math equals success for Davidson Fine Arts students

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A team of mathletes from Davidson Fine Arts School finished 15th in the country this fall in the first leg of a national math competition.

John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School math competitors Hannah Huang (from left), Sam Dong and Jiseok Choi finished 15th in the junior division of Mu Alpha Theta's Rocket City Math Competition. There will be three tests in the spring in the national competition.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School math competitors Hannah Huang (from left), Sam Dong and Jiseok Choi finished 15th in the junior division of Mu Alpha Theta's Rocket City Math Competition. There will be three tests in the spring in the national competition.

Freshmen Jiseok Choi, Sam Dong and Hannah Huang put solved 15 math problems to compete in Mu Alpha Theta’s Rocket City Math Competition in the junior division.

This is the first year a team from the school has entered the competition, said coach William Brown. Any school that is a member of Mu Alpha Theta, a national mathematics honor society, is eligible to participate.

The competition consists of one team math test in the fall and three individual tests in the spring. Tests include problems ranging from pre-algebra to calculus.

Brown said the students had a two-week window to complete the 15-problem test, but they finished early on Oct. 30. They learned last week they placed 15th in their division.

“It was the first time we were doing this, so we really didn’t have any prior information, so we just had to do our best,” Choi said.

Brown said they created their own strategy as they went along. Choi, Dong and Huang each worked five problems, then checked each other’s work.

The teamwork aspect of the competition is what drew all three students to the competition. Typically, math competitions require participants to test individually.

“This competition, we could talk it over and review our questions. We thought it would be a little different to try it,” Dong said.

Brown said the team’s performance at the Rocket City Math League competition – combined with a first-place finish by other club members at the 1-2-3 Mathematics Competition in Conyers, Ga. – has helped spark interest in the math club.

He said a lot of students come to the monthly math club meetings, but usually five or six will come before or after school to work on problems. That number has jumped to more than 15.

“The more you learn, the more fun you have,” he said.

All three students have always enjoyed math, although Huang likes working with numbers while Dong prefers the logic and thinking process.

Choi said he enjoys it all and always has.

“My parents were heavily involved in it. I guess that sort of rubbed off on me,” he said.

Though in ninth grade, Choi and Dong are both taking 10th-grade math, while Huang is taking Analytical Geometry.

The students are also involved in a host of other extracurricular activities, such as Chess Club, student government, jazz band and intramural sports.

Assistant Principal Aletha Snowberger said she is very proud of the students’ accomplishment.

“These three young people are fabulous students, but above all that they’re great kids.” she said. “They’re mathletes, but they’re also multitalented in the arts.

‘‘They participate in a variety of school activities, so we just want to explore opportunities for them on a national level so they can continue to broaden their horizons and open opportunities for them as they go to college and beyond.”


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