By Cole Altmayer, copy editor
Prospect’s math team competed against four other local schools at Downers Grove South High School on Nov. 1. This was their second meet of the year, marking a halfway point in the season. Though the team only scored 103 of the 350 total points they could’ve scored during this meet, head coach Michael Grasse believes that Prospect is in the right position for a comeback.
“The season always goes up and down,” Grasse said. “We could have two good meets and we’ll be right up [at the top of the division] again.”
Most notably, Grasse witnessed impressive potential in two different divisions of the team: the freshmen team coached by math teacher Mark Welter, and the orals competition spearheaded by senior Mandi Hall.
The orals competition involves a single student teaching a math subject in depth to a panel of two judges, who then allocate a score out of 50 points based on the thoroughness of the student’s demonstration. This meet’s orals subject was generating functions and partitions. Hall brought home a well-earned second place for Prospect, scoring 27 points. As head coach, Grasse works most heavily with the orals competitor, and describes Hall as one of the key members of this year’s math team.
None of the grade level competitions managed to place first, second or third, but Grasse has been impressed by the consistency of the freshmen. Welter attributes their success to a high level of passion for mathematics as a subject.
“If you get students who are just interested, who just enjoy doing math with their friends, then you’ve really lucked out in that case,” Welter said.
This is Welter’s first year as a math team coach after a 15 year hiatus from the program. Not only that, but it is also Welter’s first ever experience with teaching freshmen, and has proven to be just as much of a learning experience for him as it is for the “mathletes” he’s coaching.
“It’s harder to know what [a freshman’s] background knowledge is,” Welter said. “I think I get a much better sense with juniors … and especially seniors, since I’ve had most of them as juniors. Since these math team topics aren’t things you’d generally learn in class, it becomes even harder to gauge if they know [the topics].”
According to Grasse, this interest from freshmen bodes well for the team at large, and is also key to what he believes is the most surefire way to improve the team’s performance: strength in numbers.
“More participation helps everybody,” Grasse said. “You don’t have to be the greatest math student. … We’ll improve anybody who comes [to practice with us] on Wednesdays.”
Welter agrees, and emphasizes on creating an inclusive and fun environment for any student with even a passing interest in mathematics.
“Our focus is more on working together [and] enjoying math,” Welter said. “Competition is just part of it. It’s not the big end result for us.”