MSMS beats out college-level opponents in MAA competition


William Funderburk

Mathematical Association of America competitors pose for a selfie with MSMS Physics teacher William Funderburk.

Maryann Dang, Staff Writer

A group of Mu Alpha Theta students seniors JD Hagood, Vivek Nagarajan, Jon Kiesel and junior Landon Tu won first place in the student math competition, beating out their college-level opponents at the Mathematical Association of America’s sectional meeting hosted at the University of Mississippi on March 3. 

Hagood said everyone contributed to the team’s win in their own unique way. 

“As we were practicing, we found where each of our strengths [lay],” Hagood said. “For instance, I was good at abstract algebra and calculus, Jon was great at topology, Landon was really good at number theory and Vivek had differential equations down pat. Together, we had great coverage of all the content on the test. I don’t think any of us could have done it on our own.”

The event was mainly geared toward college students, and most participants were no longer in high school. Kiesel said this didn’t deter him from competing. 

“It was exciting to get a chance to show off what we knew,” Kiesel said. “I didn’t find the fact we were up against college kids to be intimidating at all. If anything, it just makes the results more [glorious].”

Mu Alpha Theta sponsor Lauren Zarandona said the meeting had events for all math students to enjoy. 

“They held a student competition, …but they also had some great speakers and games, [including] Math Jeopardy,” Zarandona said.

Junior Andrea Mireles said she especially enjoyed the thought-provoking lectures. 

“There was one about matroids, which I frankly didn’t know anything about. However, I think that’s the beauty of it,” Mireles said. “The whole event really showed me there was so much more to learn about math. It really gets you excited for the future.”

MSMS students each gained their own key takeaways from the event. Hagood said he believes in the meeting’s importance.

“I think this event is not just a way for MSMS students to prove their proficiency in math, but [also] a way to expose them to the more advanced aspects of the field,” Hagood said. “I really hope we can keep being a part of this in the future.”