For the first time in three years, math-loving students from across the state gathered at Central Washington University to compete in the Washington State Mathematics Council Competition on April 23. The Mathletes from Foss High School earned first place in the Team Project Event and took home TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculators, a $1000 scholarship to CWU and an award plaque.
Juniors Jason Nguyen and Tara Ryan have been on the team since they were freshmen, but this year was their first time competing in person. They were both excited about the opportunity to go to the state competition.
“It was a lot of fun being in that environment, being surrounded by other people who want to do math and enjoy it as much as we do,” Nguyen said.
The theme of this year’s Team Project Event was More Interesting Math, which asked students to focus on connecting math concepts to real-world applications and daily life. Each team selected 10 mathematical concepts and put together a project that clearly describes the practical application of each concept.
The Foss team decided to focus on the Pacific Northwest for their math concepts and connected to topics such as the rainfall in Washington and Tacoma’s recycling habits. The team explained how Mt. St. Helen’s slope changed after the 1980 eruption using the slope equation m = (y2 - y1)/(x2 - x1). They wanted their project to be a resource for other students and teachers.
Participating in this competition is no easy feat, and the team at Foss has worked for months on their award-winning project.
“We worked on it every week, multiple times a week as it got down to the deadline,” Ryan said.
Robert Yuong, a Math teacher at Foss and the team's advisor, started the club in 2004 and has since helped the team win nearly 60 awards at various regional and state math competitions. For the last five years, Foss Mathletes have won four first place and one second place prize at the state competition in the Team Project Event. Yuong’s dedication to the team reflects his commitment to helping students grow.
“I just cannot pass up the opportunity to give the students an opportunity to shine,” Yuong said.
Yuong attributes the team’s success to the senior team members’ ability to pass down knowledge and help guide younger team members.
“They come in as freshman and they learn from the upperclassmen, so they pass on the legacy of training future leaders,” Yuong said. “When you see something like this happening every year, it’s just priceless.”
The Foss Mathletes welcome all students to join them, no matter their math skill level.
“We have something where we get to display a lot of creativity and critical thinking skills and put together a really dynamic piece of work that displays the strengths of everyone,” Ryan said.
Ryan and Nguyen are excited to lead the team next year as seniors and going into next year they have one goal in mind.
“Hopefully lead another team to first place at state,” Ryan said.
Check out the team’s project website here.
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