Most schools get excited about pep rallies and homecomings. And while that is certainly the case at Severn School, if you ask students what team generates the most excitement on a regular basis, some would point to the math team.
Severn’s math team has dominated the Anne Arundel County math competitions as of late, taking home first place for the past two years. Once a month, dedicated students wake up early on Saturday morning to compete at Anne Arundel Community College. Even with the hectic, almost anxious atmosphere at the college on competition days, the excitement in the air is palpable, with students scurrying up and down flights of stairs, searching for their classmates and competition rooms.
Once each school is in its respective room, students are given a sheet of paper with six questions, which they are challenged to solve without a calculator. After 30 minutes, the kids pile out of the rooms and into a common area on the first floor. Over coffee and doughnuts, they discuss their answers.
From there, teams go back into new rooms for the team round of the competition, which is also 30 minutes. After this round is over, scores are tallied, and the winners are announced.
This year, Severn math team captains and senior leaders Chris Fan and Jeffery Huang have led the charge and are hoping for a three-peat. Despite their success, the two seniors made it clear that, for them, the competitions are not about winning. Instead, they want to make Severn’s squad a popular team so that students don’t, as Fan stated, “think math is a horrible thing.”
By all accounts, the math team has achieved this goal. Due in part to their high energy and school-wide announcements, the Severn math team has brought 15 to 20 kids to every math competition, which is sometimes three times higher than other schools.
Those who have gone to the competitions have had nothing but positive things to say about their experiences and the sense of community that they felt at each competition. And the participants are not just Advanced Placement math students and upperclassmen; they include new freshmen, sophomores, and even seniors who, in the past, never would have imagined they’d be spending their Saturday morning doing math.
One junior claimed that in spite of the competition being an academic event, Severn’s math team draws “a wide variety of skill levels,” creating a more relaxed environment where students are encouraged to give problems their best shot without fear of repercussions.
Finally, the problem-solving skills that students pick up at these math competitions are not so niche that only an astrophysicist would use them. Severn lacrosse captain and recent math-enthusiast Jamison Wildt believes that the competitions not only helped him hone his math skills, but also helped him improve his ability to collaborate on difficult problems with his peers. And Wildt is not alone. When asked about their experience, most Severn mathletes mention the collaborative community that arises once a month on a Saturday morning.
As Fan stated, the math team’s goal was not to have “a bunch of nerds in a room” doing math, but rather to “bring people together and make them like math.” It’s safe to say that Severn’s math team has achieved that goal.