Riverside’s resident math whizzes reap rewards

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Editor and Publisher

RESERVE – A frustrum has a top radius that equals 3, bottom radius that equals 6, and a height of 7. What is the volume of this frustrum?

For what value of the constant “k” did Kerry find the inverse of matrix “M” not to exist?

Tough enough math questions for you?

Those were just a couple of the many math questions a group of Riverside Academy students have been kicking around the past year.

They were considered during the second year that Brandi Robinson helped oversee Riverside’s chapter of the Mu Alpha Theta math team, part of the math honors society at the school.

And considering how frequently some of those students got the answers right to tough math questions like that, it helped Riverside finish the year as the number one school in the state of Louisiana, while they also finished 19th at the recent national competition held in Sacramento, Cal.

Robinson, who has a minor in math, a masters in curriculum instruction and math, and is currently working on her doctorate in math, said she wanted to start the math team at Riverside since she was on a similar team in high school.

“It was really a lot of fun when I did it, so I decided to try it here,” she said. “We’ve had a really good response from the kids, and besides the fun time they have being on the team, it also is great to help with scholarship offers, and preparing them for college.”

Riverside competed in mid-July at the nationals in California, after students worked on fundraisers during the year to raise $18,000 so they could take the trip. Each student had to come up with $500 of their own money, and the team worked together to raise the rest of the money, thanks in part to some larger donations from companies like Motiva and Cretin Homes, Robinson said.

To be eligible for the team, you must be at least a freshman at the school, have completed Algebra I, and have a 3.0 grade point average in math. But Robinson said she was pleasantly surprised over a year ago when she first announced that the school would be sponsoring a team.

“We had about 25 kids on the team last year, and 22 this year,” she said. “We spend the year going to regional competitions with other high schools, and we hosted our own event too. We took first at one of them at Catholic High.”

At the national event, individuals compete in any of the three categories—Mu, Alpha or Theta—and there is even team competition as well.

Top finishers for the local team were Chad Turnbull, a freshman, who led the team in Theta events; Jordan Martin, a graduated senior, who was the top Mu performer; and junior John St. Germaine, the top Alpha performer.

The tests consist of many different ways to compete, including “chalk talk,” written tests, ciphering tests or team tests.

Martin, who is now heading to Tulane, said he has gained more than just the fun of competition from being on the team.

“I found that everything in our regular classrooms wasn’t always challenging enough for me, and once I started with the team, I enjoyed the competition of tougher stuff,” Martin explained, noting that he is now going to major in math. “At the competitions we went to, things were much tougher, but I enjoyed the challenge.

“Additionally, I was kind of shy before becoming president of our club,” he added. “And this has brought me out of that, and improved my leadership skills.”

Robinson said that the school will continue with its third year sponsoring the team, and any student interested should contact her at Riverside.