The 2019-20 LA Math Team are Central Maine Math League Champions. From left: Selina Lin, Aidan McCullen, Aigerim Rainbak, Izzy Petersen, Vi Nguyen, Muyao Sun, Quinn Straus, Amir Mukhametkarim, Bao Dang, Adlai Nelson, Jarrett Gulden, Filip Nguyen, Benji Pugh, Curtis Cai, and Victoria Melehov.

The Lincoln Academy Math Team won the Central Maine Math League (CMML) for the fifth year in a row at a meet at Cony High school on Wednesday, March 4. Senior Quinn Straus brought home the 2020 CMML High Scorer Bowl, awarded to the student with the highest number of points for the entire math team regular season, beating out his rival from Camden Hills by 3 just points. Eight LA competitors won trophies for placing in their age groups, including Filip Nguyen, who placed third among seniors.

LA math and physics teacher Libby Mooney is the math team coach. She said, “We lost seven graduates from the A team last year, so this is basically a whole new team. Overall the team went from 24 members to 16, so we don’t have the depth we did last year, but this is still a very strong group. Of course, we are going to lose more seniors after this season. This year feels like the end of an era, and we will be recruiting new mathletes for next year.”

In addition to Quinn Straus and Filip Nguyen, other 2020 LA Math A Team members include seniors Jarrett Gulden, Adlai Nelson, Aidan McCullen, Benji Pugh, Victoria Melehov, and Amir Mukhametkarim, and juniors Muyao Sun and Bao Dang.

According to Mooney, in 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, judges score competitors’ answers, and award points 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.

“Quinn [Straus] was one question away from having a perfect meet at the last CMML Meet,” said Mooney. “And he ended up ranked in the State for the entire season.”

Straus, who has been on the LA math team since his freshman year said, “we have had a really strong team since I have been at LA. We weren’t as sure about our place this year since we lost so many seniors, but we pulled it together…people put in more effort and really started to apply themselves, and it showed in the team score.”

Straus was accepted early decision to Brown University, where he hopes to major in math “or something like it.” He credits the LA math team with helping him develop a depth of knowledge and love of math. “The competition on the math team has been a great way for me to refine my use of math concepts. In order to do well, you have to be proficient; the knowledge has to become second nature. This kind of competition is so much about accuracy and speed: you have 12 minutes to solve three relatively difficult questions, and even a formatting error can lose you all the points in a question. In order to get past that you really have to know the concepts super well.”

And going head-to-head with some of the best math students in the state raises the bar even higher. “You are competing against kids who are all getting A’s in high school math, so in order to win you have to be even more proficient than you would be, even in a higher level math class.”

Straus is quick to give Mooney credit for the team’s success. “Ms. Mooney is a great coach, she really commits herself to the math team and making sure we are all prepared, and always encourages us to go above and beyond.”

The LA math team will go on to compete at the State Math Meet at the end of March, and the CMML victory qualifies LA for the New England Math Meet in April. Mooney will be right there with them. “I’m so proud of these students, and can’t wipe the grin off my face!”