On the first Saturday of spring break, when many EA students were starting to unwind from the busy semester, Jacob Viscusi '19 and Neera Raychaudhuri '20 were busy tackling complex mathematical problems.
The students attended the Pennsylvania and Delaware Section of the Mathematical Association of America regional conference with their math teacher Dr. Tom Goebeler.
After attending a series of talks, the student competition got underway. Jacob and Neera competed against seven other teams, each comprised of at least four college undergraduates. "Jacob and Neera worked on 15 written problems and solved enough to be one of the two teams in the final," explained Dr. Goebeler. "In the end, Jacob and Neera won the whole competition." Their competitors were students from local colleges, including Swarthmore and the University of Delaware.
"I now have huge bragging rights with my family," shared Neera.
"After winning the competition, a surreal feeling came over me, as what we had done began to sink in," said Jacob. "Just Neera and I up against seven teams each containing four or more college students. I didn't think we would place, let alone exit victorious!"
"The competition consisted of two rounds- a written part, where we were given problems to solve together in 45 minutes, and a lightning round," explained Neera. "There were a variety of geometry, algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and higher level math problems for the first round. The two teams who solved the most problems would moved on to the second round- the lightning round."
After winning the first round, the duo moved on to the lightning round. "This round was your typical buzzer situation, but we were only allowed to use mental math. These questions were simpler than the paper ones, involving probability or calculations such as multiplying two digit numbers and finding perimeters of objects," said Neera.
"Hearts racing all the while, we went on to successfully defeat the opposing team in the lightning round with a score of nine to six," explained Jacob.
During the last several years of the competition, EA has finished in first place three times.
"I was a little stunned because I didn't think that our team with two high schoolers would actually be able to win, but we did!" said Neera. "We are challenged in class on a daily basis, so we didn't panic when faced with hard problems in this contest. We were able to take all the challenges head-on."
"It really speaks to the quality of our program and commitment and hard work of our students that they can compete at that level," said Upper School math teacher Tom Goebeler.
"The higher level math courses at EA are an absolute pleasure," said Jacob. "Dr. Goebeler takes the time to ensure each student not only knows the material but thoroughly understands it. This deep understanding lays the foundation for an entire mathematical career, as the practice of mathematics is, more than anything else, a way of thinking. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to take such high-caliber courses so early in my scholastic process."
"Overall, I didn't really think that we were at a huge disadvantage skill-wise, because the math courses we are taking are college-level courses," said Neera. "I think that having a teacher like Dr. Goebeler, who is willing to teach almost any math course we ask for, even if it's only two students, encourages us to be inquisitive and to accelerate without the fear of running out of math to do. Winning against college students really shows how great of a teacher Dr. Goebeler is."
"Mathematics is a vast spectrum of problems and solutions, of questions and discoveries, and I think every person can find at least one type of problem they enjoy," observed Jacob.
The conference took place on Saturday, March 24 at Temple University.