Parkland hosts hundreds for math regional competition

Gregory Gancarz

Staff Writer

Despite the freezing temperatures and unexpected snow flurries on the morning of Feb. 25, nearly 500 high school students from almost two dozen competing schools came to participate in the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) Regional Math Contest at Parkland.

Participants came from as far away as Springfield and included all high school grade levels. Those who came all the way from Springfield had to be up as early as 5 a.m. to make it on time. All of them came in the hope of winning and advancing to the ICTM State Math Contest at the University of Illinois, which is scheduled to take place on May 6.

The contest consisted of a wide variety of events spanning three sessions, taking up most of the day. Topics included most high school math subjects including algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus. The testing sessions included individual and team events in which students had to work together as cohesive units. All of the testing was held under the supervision of dozens of Parkland staff and volunteers.

Most students participated in oral exams as well in which students would present a subject they had researched.

“Students studied and learned a topic and then presented that topic before judges,” says Kara Greer, lead coordinator.

For one of the longer sessions which was a little under an hour, classrooms of students attempted to complete a litany of mathematics problems perfectly in silence. Volunteer proctors kept a sharp eye on the students and on the clock. After precisely fifty minutes, time was called and the pencils hit the desks. Students’ scores decided whether or not they advanced to the next competition. The math competition was made possible by the efforts of many teachers.

“All of the full-time math instructors do a lot of work before and during the contest. In addition, some of the part-time math faculty help on the day of the contest,” says Greer.

In addition to the Parkland staff who helped out, over 100 Parkland students assisted this year with proctoring the exams.

For Parkland students the reward for coming in on a Saturday was the looks of determination worn by the many student competitors. One student volunteer,

Dennis Garmon, was especially moved by the extraordinary motivation displayed by the hardworking pupils. “It’s great to see kids that aren’t just focused on sports and that are actually focused on academics,” Garmon says. “They’re trying to get a head start for college.” Another Parkland volunteer, Alejandro Buenrostro, was impressed by the dedication it took for so many youths to make it out that morning.

“It’s good to see high school students so passionate about education and math, taking the time out of their Saturday to come take a math exam,” Buenrostro says.

The good impressions left by the competition went both ways. Vidhula, a freshman participant in the competition complemented the beauty and cleanliness of Parkland’s campus. While her favorite subject was actually biology she said she still enjoyed the competition.

“[It’s] a fun thing to do on the weekend and a great experience,” Vidhula says.

Parkland helped pioneer the ICTM math competition when it started a math contest for district high school students in 1976. However, in 1981 the ICTM started math contests across the state and from that time on, Parkland assumed the role of hosting the contests instead of holding their own.

After 42 years of hosting the competitions, Parkland College is looking forward to hosting many more.