Number Power

March 27, 2009

When walking by Room N516 on a Wednesday afternoon, one may wonder—what’s going on in there? Is this a class or a club?

Students inside the classroom are learning and talking about math. They are earnest, they are enthusiastic, they actually ENJOY math!

These students are members of the BMCC Math Club—and most of them are not even Math majors. They just enjoy being part of a group that studies mathematics in a supportive environment—and as a bonus, there’s no homework. Although it’s called the Math Club, when it comes to math competitions, the members train like “The Math Team.”

BMCC’s Math Team won first place in the 2008-2009 AMATYC Student Math League competition. AMATYC – The American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges—runs the Student Mathematics League, which was founded in 1970 by Long Island’s Nassau Community College. The League has grown to more than 165 colleges in more than thirty-five states, as well as Bermuda, involving over eight thousand community college math students.

“In all my years working with the BMCC Math Team, I have never been so amazed,” says Professor Michael George, co-advisor to the BMCC Math Club.

According to George, for the test, the country as a whole divides up into 6 regions. BMCC is in the Northeast region, and has taken second place in three of the last four years. “The students must answer up to 20 questions, on paper, within a given period of time,” says George. “Our first place position simply means that we got the highest score in our region during the round one competition.”


The breakdown was this: BMCC took first place in the Round 2 Results 2008-2009 Student Math League Competition (Northeast Region), edging out competition from Onondaga Community College (NY) and Springfield Technical Community College (MA), who scored 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

BMCC’s Math Team ranked number one in the final standing for the Northeast Region.In addition, BMCC had 3 of the top 10 individual scorers in the Northeast region.

First Time, First Place
This is the first time BMCC has been in first place in the competition.

“As I have watched the team improve year after year, I felt confident this pinnacle of achievement would come, but that makes me no less proud of our team,” says Professor Jason Samuels, co-advisor of the Math Club.

To prepare for the AMATYC tests, Professors George and Samuels discuss problems that are interesting, and review previous AMATYC tests with the students.

“For the tests, students can use a calculator and don’t need to know math beyond pre-calculus,” says George. “They are picking up mathematical concepts that are different than from their math classes.”

The current Math Club president is Lin Ye, a liberal arts major who says he “loves math—especially pre-calculus and statistics.”

According to Ye, when it comes to taking the AMATYC test, if you can finish 10 questions in the allotted time (roughly a little more than an hour) you’re already at the top. “If you can answer 15 questions, you are gunning for first place.”

As current president of the Math Club, Ye encourages BMCC students to check out what the Math Club is all about. “It’s interesting—not boring,” he says. “Even though the club is academic, we still have activities. We do have leisure time.”

In fact, according to Ye, the team threw a party to celebrate their mathematics victory.

More Members? No problem!
To encourage involvement with the Math Team, the club is recruiting top math students in various classes. Recently, students were given letters of recommendation from their math teachers to join math team.

Ye also acknowledges BMCC President Antonio Pérez, and is arranging a session on-campus where President Pérez will host an Introduction to Mathematics and talk about the Math Team and how math is used in everyday life.

Math Club member Owen O’Leary says topics covered in the Math Club center around puzzle solving. “All the questions have interesting answers. In here, there’s also no competition between students, it’s just fun,” he says.

As for the stigma that math is difficult or boring, Ye says, “I think Math is a fascinating subject. A good knowledge of math opens doors for you, career-wise. It’s another form of communication.”

He encourages those interested in math to visit the Math Team during club time on campus. The Club currently has more than 20 members and is always happy to recruit more.

“Come in and check us out—anyone’s welcome,” says Ye. “We’re always doing interesting, fun things. We have some impressive new members.”

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