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Champaign's Central, Centennial High Schools Compete at ICTM Math Contest

May 6, 2013 – High school students from across the state—more than 3,000 of them—flooded the Quad on Saturday morning. These students, representing more than 200 schools, came to Illinois for the annual state finals of the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) High School Math Contest. Each team practiced their math skills throughout the year and qualified at one of 22 regional contests in order to make it to the state-wide contest.

Champaign’s Central and Centennial High Schools both sent teams to the state competition this year, as did Urbana High School and University Laboratory High School. The schools had students competing in individual events, such as written Algebra I & II, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus tests; oral competitions; and team events, including an 8-person written test, a 2-person speed event, and a 4-person relay.

Led by experienced seniors, the Central High School team was ready to face the competition.
Central High School seniors competing the inthe 8-person event.Seniors Connie Hong (left) and Chris Yim (right) competed in the junior/senior 8-person event. Both have decided to study Engineering at Illinois next year.

Connie Hong, a senior at Central High School, has been on the math team for the past four years and was excited to compete in the individual pre-calculus competition and the junior/senior 8-person event. “It’s actually the only club I’ve done all four years,” Hong said. For her, it’s all about “the thrill of getting a problem right. You just want to keep going, and going, and going.” She has practiced with the rest of the Central team for an hour every week this year. “No matter how much preparation you do, you’ll never know what they’ll throw at you.”

Central math team coach Jason Deal leads the weekly practices, during which students work together to complete tests from previous years’ competitions, solve brain teasers, and do group thinking challenges. Said Deal at the contest Saturday, “It’s really cool. I think to me the coolest part about it is that you do have high school students who have busy schedules, who have a lot of interests, who want to give up an hour of their day basically once a week during the school year to come and do more math.”

The Central team’s four seniors this year have all been on the team since their freshman year. “It’s just been fun to see them grow and see them mature and see them take strides from when they came in,” says Deal. “I’ve really gotten to see them sort of gel and grow and leap even many or their peers as they’ve gone through high school, which is pretty cool to see, and now head off to whatever college that they want to go to and further their interests as a math major or as an engineering major. Some of them go on to be history majors or English majors, but they still enjoyed math and so they still got to be members of the team and do that.”

Centennial High School prepares students for ICTM and national competitions.
Centennial students working on an 8-person test.The Centennial freshman/sophomore 8-person team had no time to be nervous about the competition, working with a giant stop watch projected overhead which counted down the 20 minutes allowed to complete the group test.

Weekly team practices at Centennial High School went beyond what most of the students there are doing in the classroom. Strategizing with her teammates helped prepare freshman Bohye Kim for the individual Algebra I event.“The questions weren’t really that hard, but it wasn’t like the questions I would normally see in school, like during math class…you need more thinking, I guess.” Even though this was Kim’s first year on the team, math is Kim’s favorite subject and is one that she feels confident in. “I’m so happy that our team made it to state, so right now I’m really happy to be here.”

Centennial was also represented by students in the Geometry event and the freshman/sophomore 8-person event. The students enjoy working together as team to meet challenges posed by material that often goes beyond the traditional curriculum, said coach Jay Hooper. At the end of the day, Hooper reported that the Centennial team was happy with their overall scores. They finished just shy of receiving an award at the ceremony that follows the competition. Centennial has also competed successfully in the Illinois Math League, a monthly competition which takes place from October to March, as well as the national-level American Mathematics Contests.

University and community support helps make the contest possible.

Illinois hosts the state finals annually, providing space and logistical support. Each year, 200+ volunteers from the community donate their time to make the event possible, doing everything from passing out programs to proctoring and judging the actual events. Many volunteers are former ICTM participants, some of whom were influenced by their participation in the contest to come to Illinois or to study mathematics or a related field in college.

With the 2013 state finals behind them, math teams across the state will soon start making plans for the 2014 contest. Regional contests in 2014 will take place on Feb. 22 at most sites, and March 1 at Parkland College and Illinois Central College. For more information, including complete results of the 2013 state finals, visit http://www.ictm.org/links/contest.html.


Story and photos by Christy Glaze.
More: 8-12 Outreach, Centennial, Central High, Champaign-Urbana Community, ICTM, 2013