Math League prepares for new season after slowed by COVID-19

Stephanie Nord, the advisor for the stillwater math league, holds up a team T-shirt in the classroom where they normally meet. Due to COVID-19 the team did not print out new shirts for the 2020-21 season.

Photo by Drew Jurek

Stephanie Nord, the advisor for the stillwater math league, holds up a team T-shirt in the classroom where they normally meet. Due to COVID-19 the team did not print out new shirts for the 2020-21 season.

Drew Jurek, Print Editor-in-Chief

After quarantine complicated recruitment and forced their season to be done remotely, the Math League is making plans to rebuild in a post-COVID-19 world.

Math Leagues are teams that play in large competitions devoted to solving math problems. The first math leagues were founded in 1979, by two math teachers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Minnesota established its own math league in 1980, at Macalester College and has since grown to include over 175 schools competing in 26 divisions.

The school math league was founded long ago, but since moving up from the middle school math teacher Stephanie Nord has been the team’s advisor. Before her move to the high school, she served as an advisor of the middle school math league for seven years.

“It’s sort of like a tutor”, Nord explained. “It’s like teaching math after school, A lot of students we have in math league are really strong in math and we have a group of students that would like to be strong in math; so they’re getting extra help on math problems… so you’re jumping around from problem to problem, subject to subject.”

The league has five competitions a year, about once a month. During these competitions students choose two out of four subjects to compete in, ranging from algebra to precalculus. They then take a 15-minute test for each chosen subject.

Senior Connor Lange explained that the tests were fun, including challenge problems rather than “boring” problems you’d find on a math test.

“We meet about once a week usually,” Lange said, “We usually go over problems from past years, and there’s always food.”

Food is a big part of the math league, so much so that it is required that donuts be provided at every meeting held in Minnesota. However, donuts weren’t able to be served this year due to the global pandemic, which forced the league to hold virtual meets rather than physically come together at Woodbury High School as usual.

A lot of students we have in math league are really strong in math and we have a group of students that would like to be strong in math”

— Stephanie Nord

“I had them on Zoom and I’d watch them as they were logged into the state site,” Nord said, “just like tests in math class, everybody has their camera on the individual test… I just watch and make sure no one is using their calculators.”

COVID-19 has not just affected practices and competitions. In 2016, the Stillwater math league had an estimated 25e members, because of recruiting problems that number shrank in 2020, to 18 members, and as of 2021, it rests at eight members, primarily seniors.

“We just didn’t see students,” Nord explained. “If you’re a Tuesday or Thursday kid, you’re not going to come in on Monday to be a mathlete. We had that issue with some of our current leads too.”

It is an issue that the team plans to discuss at their upcoming banquet where they will elect their two captains for the next year. However, the team is optimistic about its future with the resumption of in-person schooling and a new normal.

Nord said she was hopeful the team would be able to stop in math classrooms, as this is the most efficient way to get in new members.