Math Team Season Preview 2018-2019


The Niles West Math Team before leaving for the state competition at UIUC last year.

By Pavle Vuksanovic, Staff Writer

With members walking in, giddy with laughter, they know that what is about to come is no joke. Their laughs mask the impending half-hour of intense concentration. This juxtaposition is the epitome of Math Team.

Math Team is an academic club here at Niles West that embraces and extends on the mathematics we learn in the classroom. They compete in two distinct competitions centered in Illinois: NSML (North Suburban Math League) and ICTM (Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics). NSML happens throughout the year having 5 meets between schools in our area. Each meet has certain areas of focus for each grade level, so students get to learn from many areas throughout the year. Throughout the year, Freshmen focus on Algebra 1 topics, Sophomores on Geometry, Juniors on Algebra 2, and Seniors on Pre-Calculus. As well, there is an oralist, which is a difficult position open to seniors. Last year’s oralist, Elaine Tran, loved the extra challenge.

“During my senior year, I was the oralist for the team. This position required me to study advanced topics for a month or so. During the meets, I had 15 minutes to solve three questions then 10 minutes to present my solutions verbally to judges,” Tran said. “I was judged on correctness as well as presentation skills and had the opportunity to earn the most points for the math team.”

The ICTM competition is a little different. There are only two competitions, regional and state, but it has many more events. Ranging from the Eight Person event (eight people work together on 20 problems for 20 minutes) to the individual event (20 problems in 50 minutes) there is a much larger range for choice to suit a student’s preferences.

Most importantly, Math Team helps give new perspectives on math.

“The mathematics we learn in math team isn’t like a standard high school algebra test. It’s like the different genres and subgenres of music where some people like rap vs. classical. Similarly, some people who don’t like school math can love math team,” Nehemiah said.

Robert Nortillo, who has been the head coach of the team for over a decade, agrees that this new angle on math should encourage all different kinds of students to join the team.

“I think a lot of students think they aren’t ‘smart enough’ for math team because they can think of someone who has an easier time with math than them,” Nortillo said. “But declining to participate in math team for that reason would be like declining to participate in track because you aren’t the fastest runner. Math team is a team-oriented activity, and we need lots of students to have a good team. And it’s fun! So, as Dewey Finn said in School of Rock, ‘Get off your ath and do some math!'”

So, if you love a logical challenge or trying something new academically, give Math Team a shot. It’s not just more tedious math homework, it’s a new challenge which can change your perspective and give you somewhat of an insight into what math looks like in a college environment.

Math team meets in 3185 on Wednesdays after school.