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An interview with Midwood’s Math Team: Cooler than just calculus

Posted on Monday, December 2, 2019 by for Public Affairs.

If you think you need to be great at math to join the Math Team, think again. At Midwood High School, being on the Math Team is much more than rapidly calculating limits and derivatives — it’s a community, a think tank, and a great place to meet new people.

Team Captain Joel Rakhamim ’20 describes the environment as "Friendly, casual, and welcoming to new members". According to Rakhamim, "The main purpose is to enjoy what we’re doing and have fun with math. We try to look at math outside of the conventional ways. In our meetings, we work on different types of challenging problems or riddles together and then discuss different ways to do them".

One of the most popular reasons members have joined seems to be a desire to expand the bounds of their problem-solving abilities. Jeremy Maniago ’20 comments on his intrigue, claiming "I got involved with Math Team because I sought different approaches to different kinds of problems", with Gary Tran ’20 adding "I joined Math Team to hopefully improve my problem-solving skills and extend my knowledge of math in general".

While it’s typical to assume math as an independent activity, members attest the opposite: collaboration is crucial to their success.

Rakhamim explains "Normally, Mr. Peterson (our spiritual leader and motivator) starts by giving us a few problems to work on in groups, and we try to get the solutions as a team. Afterward, we all come together and go through each problem, noting different strategies". Teammate Jason Mai ’20 also notes "Being on the team helps you to come out of your shell a little bit, because you have to work together to achieve the common goal". From this, it’s evident that sharing ideas and thought processes is an integral part of the Math Team, because it ultimately makes them all better mathematicians.

Speaking of "Coming out of your shell", though, one of the most compelling aspects of joining is that not only can you bounce off of each other’s ideas, but those of new people as well.

Erin Ho ’20 shares "Last year I participated in two competitions and honestly, it was a lot of fun. I was placed on a team full of people I didn’t know, and being stuck with them for hours was interesting. It was fun seeing how other people’s brains worked". Mai adds, "You get to meet new people while prepping for competition; last year I played on a team that matched with someone from another school and it was pretty cool and fun to come together to work on math".

If you’re thinking of joining the Math Team, consider the following advice from Captain Joel: "I think anyone who is genuinely interested in math should join, regardless of their previous grades. A respectful person with a drive to learn and to help others learn would be a good teammate because they are, by virtue, committed, hardworking, and always willing to help out. It is also important to be able to have a rational, civil discussion since disagreements are inevitable".

In case you’re still not convinced, Rakhamim adds "Coach Peterson is divine".

Alyssa Kattan (Class of 2020)