March Mathness kicks off volunteering for Mu Alpha Theta

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Abby Kempf

Saturday, March 7, Mu Alpha Theta, the school’s segment of the National Math Honor Society, entertained fourth and fifth graders with a math themed scavenger hunt along with a math competition.
“Our club hosted March Mathness, a large-scale math event we established this year. About 150 fourth and fifth graders attended. The day consisted of a math test followed by many fun math games designed as a scavenger hunt,” Mu Alpha Theta President and junior Hannah Chen said. “Through this event, we hope to appeal to children of all backgrounds and provide them with an opportunity to enjoy mathematics. As a society, we are dedicated to promoting scholarship in math and sparking the interest of all kids for now and the future.”
An event of this size took a lot of coordination, that sponsor math teacher Denis Fitzgerald mainly left up to the students.
“I try to leave it to the students to try and come together. We’ve got four officers, [I left it] for them to find a date and talk to Mr. Bones and come up with the game plan,” Fitzgerald said. “In those meetings, [they] try to set up committees and people [went] to the elementary schools to try to promote it. It worked pretty well since we got over 100 [students.] I would have been happy with 40 or 50.”
Vice president junior Stephanie Kang was one of those officers that helped to meticulously plan the event.
“Before we planned all this out, we had officer meetings. We planned how we wanted to do registration. [Then] we split into groups. One was the poster group, one was the organization group, there was a group that would advertise to elementary schools, another group was the booth group, and the proctor group, the grading group, and the math question making group,” Kang said. “I was in charge of the poster group. I was in charge of making all the posters and flyers that were going to be sent to all the schools. I also made the informational sheet that was sent to the parents about the competition.”

A fourth grader enjoys a lollipop while finishing up his math test. photo by Abby Kempf
A fourth grader enjoys a lollipop while finishing up his math test. photo by Abby Kempf
Kang believes the huge turnout was due to the excellent advertisement the students ran to promote the event.
“The turn out was great. I think it was mainly because we advertised really well and also people who live in the rock bridge district are really devoted and use the opportunities,” Kang said. “We were really thankful that the elementary schools cooperated with us, as well.”
Many students left the event with a smirk and a prize, which were given to the winners of the competition along with those who finished the scavenger hunt first. The competitive aspect of the event helped to keep kids motivated and excited.
“I hope that we inspired their interest in math through this event. It was great seeing some of them discover the fun in math, and truly learn to enjoy it,” Chen said. “We hope to encourage their pursuits in this area for the future. We will make March Mathness an annual event and hopefully, we will expand the event from Columbia to regional areas in the future.”
Mu Alpha Theta isn’t a long standing club at RBHS like National Honor Society or many of the foreign language honor societies. In fact, this is Mu Alpha Theta’s first year with a constituency of over 15.
“Last year, I went up to Katy [Shi] and said ‘Would you want to start a chapter of National Honor Society?’ because I was looking through the yearbook and saw Honor Societies for some other departments and I thought ‘Why isn’t there one for math?’ She  jumped on it,” Fitzgerald said. “So we had some meetings in my room and we had about 12 people and then when I went online [I saw] the requirements and that is when we decided that this next year we would get some officers and then send out letters to every parent of every child that met the requirements. That is why all of the sudden we ballooned from twelve to 80 people.”
Once Katy Shi graduated, Chen took over the role of main coordinator of the club. She was voted president, running uncontested, during the first meeting of the school year.
“I strongly believed that this organization served an excellent purpose and had the potential to be expanded,” Chen said. “So at the beginning of this school year, I spent tons of effort to get the word out about this organization, and it really paid off.”
Organizations like Mu Alpha Theta are excellent catalysts for enthusiasm, Fitzgerald and Chen said. By starting Mu Alpha Theta, opportunities like March Mathness became possible.
March Mathness not only benefited the elementary students, but also the high school volunteers who were able to spend time with younger students and impress their love of math on children who might see students who care about academics in their normal friend circles.
“For me, personally, March Mathness was a memorable experience. Although it was a huge challenge, the end was more than worth it. This was the first time that I have ever organized such a big event from scratch. There was no past event to learn from. We had to start from the bottom and make our goals become a reality,” Chen said. “Keeping every aspect of the event under control, communicating with different school principals and parents and handling all kinds of unexpected emergencies will be experiences that I will never forget. This event truly taught me about teamwork, leadership, commitment, and expecting the unexpected. We are extremely proud to have inspired so many kids to participate in this newly-established event and spend a day enjoying math.”
By Abby Kempf