The proctor's words penetrate my concentration like a dull, rusty knife yanking me out of my semi-meditative state. The pencil moves as if of its own accord as the solution to the equation materializes on the page. With the last of my waning mental strength, I move the answer to the space provided at the top of the page, dropping my hand in exhaustion as the proctor yells, "Time!"
Being a member of the Canton High School Math Team has been my most educational experience of the "three-years-one-month-twelve-days" in which I have been a high-school student. It has presented me with challenges, and with a number of invaluable experiences and insights into life. It is time spent in the classroom both before and after the last bell has sounded, and it is time spent at home practicing all types of math problems long after other family members are asleep. It is time spent competing in other towns with students from all over the state, and it is time spent running a concession stand at Foxboro Stadium during football games and concerts. It is the long, monotonous ride to Penn State to compete in the American Regional Math League, and it is relaxing at a luxurious restaurant after once again capturing the New England Champion title.
The Canton High School Math Team experience begins in the sophomore year. An elite group of students is hand-picked by Head Coach Martin Badoian for exemplary mathematical ability. From that day until the end of senior year (with the exception of a few weeks in July and August), this select group of students will study literally thousands of math problems, arranged into categories from Advanced Arithmetic and Number Theory to Analytical Geometry and Trigonometry. Each of these categories represents the theme of a particular "round" at a "math meet."
Each math meet consists of six rounds during which each student attempts to solve three problems on a given subject with ten minutes to complete all three problems. Those who correct the rounds show no mercy; partial credit is nonexistent. Each student is placed in three of the six rounds, depending on his/her strong points. There is also a team round, during which all students from each team work together to solve a collection of problems covering all of the six areas of mathematics.
Following in the tradition of the Canton Math Team, every meet is followed by an all-expenses paid dinner, presenting a social element to complement the intellectual aspect of the math meets.
The Math Team has proven to me that there is a great deal of truth to the adage "practice makes perfect." It has taught me that the best way to approach any problem, math or otherwise, is to analyze carefully what is asked for and then to work with what is given. It has required me to function both as a member of a team and as an individual. Mr. Badoian has taught me to accept nothing but the best from myself.
Samuel Johnson once said: "Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified." He was not (of course) referring specifically to the Canton High School Math Team, and the difficulties of which he spoke were probably not the trials and tribulations of having to compute the surface area of a frustum with a cylindrical hole bored through it. What he did speak of was life in general, and the difficulties are those which each of us faces as individuals, as well as those which we all face as a team.
I am confident I can surmount each difficulty before me. I follow an ever-ascending path, climbing the steps of success. I move along a trail built entirely of pinnacles; every stride brings me to another mountain-top, and each mountain-top affords a magnificent view. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.