Lake Forest Academy math team going strong
Lake Forest Academy students Bill Rong (left) and William Wang, both juniors, have high hopes for this year's math team. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 10, 2013 11:16AM
LAKE FOREST — The Lake Forest Academy Math Team has a simple goal: To be the best in the state.
After beating 27 other schools in the recent Milwaukee School of Engineering’s elite “OP”portunity Math Conference team competition — with one member bringing home a perfect individual score — team members and advisor Ken Magarie think they have a better than average shot at winning the state title.
“We had seven of the top 26 individuals in Milwaukee,” Magarie said pointing to the team rankings he posts regularly on a bulletin board outside the math classroom where 12 to 15 members of the team practice weekly.
For the team to come home with first place in only its second visit to the contest in Milwaukee is an achievement worth noting, Magarie said.
“Last year was the first time we’d ever gone there,” Magarie, a math teacher at LFA, said. “We showed up and got second place. Getting first place this year was pretty awesome.”
LFA beat Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, the 2011 first place team at the “OP”portunity Math Conference, by four points.
“That’s equivalent to getting one question more right than they got,” Magarie said.
Bill Rong, LFA math team member and one of the top performers on the team, attributes the success to hard work.
“We concentrated on practicing,” the 17-year-old junior said.
The team meets weekly to take qualifying tests for other contests. The tests typically range from six questions with a 30-minute time limit to seven questions with a 35- or 40-minute limit. The questions usually cover algebra 1 and 2, geometry and pre-calculus. They are taken individually, in teams or in a group. Some questions permit the use of a calculator, others do not.
Handling the time-limit pressure is one of the biggest reasons the team practices.
“I try to do the easier questions faster. The harder ones I can spend 10 to 20 minutes on,” said William Wang, a junior who has been on the team since his freshman year. Wang brought home the individual perfect score in Milwaukee.
To qualify for the Illinois high school state finals at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May, the LFA team must do well at the regional competition at the end of February.
“The state competition is more difficult,” Rong noted.
Practicing as a team on the group questions is one area they will tackle.
Wang, who won 2nd place in algebra 2 last year as a sophomore, hopes to do even better this year.
“I would like to win first place,” Wang said.
To do that, he’ll keep up constant practicing, “doing sets of problems each week so there is improvement,” he said. “If I can’t solve one, I’ll bring it home and try to solve it at home. Next time when I see this kind of problem, I’ll know how to do it.”