Success adds up for Mathletes
UIC College Prep team calculates its way to city honors
UIC College Prep Mathletes after the citywide finals. Two teams took first place in their division, although it was the first year the high school has participated in the competition.
It was their first time in the big leagues — but UIC College Prep won its division.
Each year in the City of Chicago Math League, more than two dozen Chicago public high schools spread over three divisions compete in algebra, geometry and pre-calculus.
The schedule features four division-only contests and a citywide final.
Although UIC College Prep fielded a rookie team with no seniors, the school’s Mathletes completed a successful inaugural campaign by winning Division C for the 2010-11 academic year.
Coached by geometry teacher Catherine Doyle, the Algebra I and Geometry squads took first place in Division C for both the season and at the recent citywide final, held March 30 at Lane Tech High School.
Freshmen Luis Zuniga and Michelle Longoria finished first and fifth, respectively, in Algebra I overall during the final. They faced competition from ninth-graders in all divisions, including the city’s highest-rated high schools.
“The whole point of competing in math is to stimulate logical reasoning and problem solving,” Doyle said.
“The level of questioning at Mathletes competitions is beyond anything they see in school.”
To prepare for the competitions, the team practiced weekly, then twice a week, for the month before the finals.
“Practice sometimes turns into a mini lesson, because it’s something they haven’t seen in math class,” Doyle said.
The students and their coach agreed: practice builds confidence.
“You try to see how good you are, just like a sport or talent. I gave it my best and it worked out well,” said ninth-grader Genesis Quiroga.
Tenth-grader Christopher Rojas said the competition gave him a new perspective on school.
“I’m good at geometry, but to see me get problems wrong or make simple mistakes made me open my eyes that I haven’t learned enough and I can still learn more,” he said.
Many of her students came from schools without a math team and Mathletes gave them a new outlook on mathematics, said Doyle, a new teacher at UIC College Prep.
To attract team members, she campaigned in math classes, posted signup sheets and crossed her fingers “that they showed up to practice for the first time.”
Her efforts were rewarded: about 35 students joined the team over the year.
Doyle said students benefit from Mathletes not only by learning class material, but facing questions in competition that apply to the real world.
“It’s problem solving where they need to use the skills they learned elsewhere,” she said.
“In mathematics curriculum, the issue we’re having is how to make students logical thinkers and problem solvers. That’s what the world needs.”
Ana Cheung, an 11th grader who takes a calculus course at UIC before school, called Mathletes “a good opportunity for me to build for the future.”
The team could be promoted to Division B next year and the students are eager to build on their initial success.
“It was a great time and I look forward to joining next year,” Zuniga said.