The LA Math team and coach Libby Mooney (bottom left) ringing the bell after the team’s second championship in three years.
The 2019 Lincoln Academy Math Team has enjoyed unprecedented success this year. In March they won their second State Championship in three years, and on Friday the team’s top scorers competed at the New England Math Meet on Friday, and four out of six of LA’s competitors had perfect rounds. What is the secret to the math team’s success?
Math team coaches Tristan Plumb (left) and Libby Mooney during an LA math team practice.
Team members give credit to coach Libby Mooney and assistant coach Tristan Plumb: their enthusiasm, rigorous and fun approach to practices, and the positive team culture they have built.
“Math team practices are important because we practice on questions that are very similar to the ones in the meet,” said senior team member Wendy Qin. “We get familiar with the methods of the questions themselves, so we are ready for competition”
Senior Antony Wu, who is LA’s top performer and the number four scorer in all classes in the state, agreed. “Many of the questions draw on math we learned several years ago, and the team practices refresh those skills.”
Ms. Mooney “provides a supportive environment for the team,” said junior Quinn Straus. “She always makes sure everything is scheduled and smooth at our meets, she is always willing to help students that are struggling, and she is always understanding if we have a poor meet. Also, she always makes sure we have a fresh batch of brownies at every practice!”
Math team practices are sharp pencils, full of sharp pencils, laughter, and brownies.
Math team coach Libby Mooney gives credit right back to her students. “It’s simple,” she said. “our kids are extremely smart. This year’s team has incredible depth, and that means everyone is a contributor. Sometimes our number 10 will be the one giving all the right answers, and sometimes it will be our number one. This year’s alternates would have been on the A team any other year.”
Both the mathletes and their coach agree that more than anything, their team culture is critical to building such a powerhouse program. “We have very good team spirit,” said Qin. “We learn a lot from each other. We know our own strengths and weaknesses. For team rounds we know who is the best at which kind of question. We know each other really well.”
The students love coming to practice, because the culture in Ms. Mooney’s classroom is one of support, kindness, laughter, and… brownies. “During the regular season I bake at least four batches of brownies a week,” said Ms. Mooney.
The LA math team hard at work at a Monday evening practice.
“For me, being here is more about interacting with the people than about practicing math,” said Qin. “This is always welcoming place, and not only for people who are good at math. Everyone is welcome… People who want to improve, who want to do extra problems to learn more math for the classroom. It is not a lot of pressure. No one has to go to the meets who doesn’t want to. Math team… gives me a way to feel part of school, and representing Lincoln Academy at the meets gives me a sense of school spirit.”
The last event of the Math Team season is the American Regional Mathematics League on June 1. The top 40 students in the state qualify to represent Maine at this prestigious meet, and this year an unprecedented seven LA students are among that top 40, though not all will attend because of other commitments.
The Lincoln Academy 2019 Maine State Champion Math Team.
“It has been an amazing year,” reflected Mooney. “Success breeds success. When people first come to LA they want to be part of something that is already very good. So they show up for Math Team, and we get the best students.”
In June seven seniors will graduate from the A team, meaning next season will be a very different year for the Math Team. But in her characteristically optimistic way, Ms. Mooney has a positive angle on this, too. “There will be lots of room for younger, less experienced students to earn a spot on the team… and that’s a good thing.”