The LA Math team with their Central Maine Math League Regional Championship Trophy. Senior Jacob Brown (center, holding plaque) qualified for the All-State Math Team that will represent Maine at Nationals.

On March 8, the Lincoln Academy Math Team brought home the Central Maine Math League (CMML) Championship trophy for the second year in a row.

LA senior Jacob Brown was the CMML high scorer for the 2016-17 season of the American Regional Math League Competition, and will join the Maine All Star team at the National Math meet later this spring. Ten other Lincoln Academy students received trophies in their age groups: seniors Novak Chen, Hindley Wang, Jessie Xu, and Cynthia Zhou; Juniors Eva Lu, Rain She, and Sunny Zhou; and sophomores William Doan, Lily Goltz, Mai Hoang Phang, Wendy Qin, Stella Shi, Jemma Tang, and Antony Wu.

The LA Math Team is coached by Lincoln Academy Math and Physics teacher Libby Mooney with help from assistant Coach Tristan Plumb.

“The strength of our team is depth,” said Mooney. “I have seniors who are amazing, but I also have sophomores and even a freshman who are awesome too. You can’t win math meets with just one or two superstars.”

At a typical math meet, the top ten scorers for each team compete at one time. Competitors have 12 minutes to answer three problems in each of five rounds. After the timer goes off, the answers are scored by judges, and points are awarded for correct answers. Of the three questions in each round, Mooney explains, “the first problem most kids can do. The second one about half can do, and the third problem only a few can do correctly. A perfect round, with all three questions right, earns 12 points. The most any one student can get at a meet is 60 points, and that is very hard to do. I have never had a perfect score in my career as a coach.”

At the recent CMML Regional Championship, “all 10 kids [on the LA team] scored 30 points or above, which means they all did really well,” said Mooney.

After five individual rounds, there is one 12-minute team round where team members work together to solve even more challenging problems. “The team round is much harder than the individual round. Kids work very hard on those problems,” said Mooney.

The LA team has been successful based on both individual and team success, and even after back-to-back regional championships, Mooney is still looking ahead to a strong returning team next year. What is the secret to the Lincoln Academy math team dynasty? International students have certainly helped build the the program, since many arrive at Lincoln with a strong math background. But local students play a critical role as well, including high-scorer Jacob Brown of Jefferson.

“There is a lot of camaraderie: working together helps create friendships between local and international students, said Mooney. Learning the skills they need for competition, kids really come together as a team. It is true that there are more international than local students, but after a while we all forget who is from where, and we are just a team.”

Mooney is quick to list additional benefits of joining math team. “Math team supports the curriculum. Students learn skills, like trigonometry, that they use in the classroom. They learn to structure their time better during tests. For students who really like math, this team is the place to be.” And, most importantly, “they get brownies after school. That is my best pitch for recruiting new members–kids love the brownies.”

Jacob Brown scored 256 points during the 2016-17 Math Team season, making him the high scorer for not only the Lincoln Academy team, but all 24 teams in the Central Maine Math League. Brown’s high score earned him a spot on Maine’s All-Star team, made up of the top 30 individual scorers in the state who will represent Maine at the National Math Meet later this spring.

“It is really exciting to join the all-state team,” said Brown, a National Merit Finalist who has not yet decided where he will attend college. “I get to be surrounded by people who are much smarter than me in math, and to be involved in a higher level of competition. People at that level have an interesting take on how math works.”

“Part of what makes math team so great is you are working with people who have the same intellectual curiosity and passion about the subject,” Brown continued. “That leads to healthy conversation and learning experiences. For me, since I am planning to major in math, it gives me a bunch of different perspectives on learning before I go to college. I feel like the competition helps get into the finer details of math than are in the regular curriculum, and that is a rewarding experience.”

Brown counts Math Team as one of the highlights of his career at Lincoln Academy. “Not only do I have really good relationships with students on the team, I have made lasting bonds with the coach and co-coach, who have been great mentors for me.”

The LA team will compete at the State Math Meet in April, where 100 teams from high schools all over the state will vie for the state championship. This is a much bigger pool for the LA team than Regionals, and in the words of Mooney, “the competition is crazy!”

Still, armed with sharpened pencils (and Ms. Mooney’s brownies), this well-practiced team of young minds will give it their best shot.