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Decatur team places second in Shore-wide math competition

BERLIN—As they head into the homestretch for graduation next year, Stephen Decatur High School seniors Daniel Beck, Jake Eisenman and Gary Qian will leave a legacy of helping their alma mater move into the winning zone after placing second during the 30th annual Eastern Shore High School Mathematics Competition on Nov. 7.
The team was the first-place winner last year, and Beck, who was also on last year’s team, was the third place winner for the individual competition. Noting the first place honors won in 2012, he said SDHS “was the team to beat,” this year.
Sherryl Olson is the team’s teacher and coach/advisor, and was recognized as one of several teachers who were mentioned for bringing teams from their respective schools to participate in the math competition for 20 years or more. With the graduations of the trio, she will be faced with having to build and coach a brand new team for next year. She said she will look for students with strong critical thinking skills.
The winner of the team competition was North Caroline Senior High School, of Ridgely, Md.  Pocomoke High School won third place.
Heejun Choi of Parkside High School in Salisbury won first place in the individual student competition, and Fei Gao of Broadwater Academy, in Exmore, Va., was runner-up.
The contest was sponsored by Delmarva Power and took place at Salisbury University.
Other local teams who participated in the math competition included:
• Worcester Prep with Lane Spangler, Eric Zorn and Mikalah Potvin, and Linda Bragg as the teacher and coach/advisor;
• Snow Hill, with Camden Fischer, Gabe Power and Alex Shockley, and Ken Wilson as the teacher and coach/advisor; and
• Worcester Tech, with Tyler Jenkins, Owen Dennis and Marley Rakow, and Julia Hill as the teacher and coach/advisor.
With their solid math backgrounds, Beck said the SDHS team practiced group problem-solving skills, which apparently was key, because the manner and format in which the questions were posed all but guaranteed that the responses be made by the group.  “Once you know the basis of math, you are better able to use it to connect to other concepts,” said Qian.
He then peels off a philosophical reflection he’s been apparently storing for a while to describe the competition. “It prods the intellectual vitality of our mental states,” he said tongue–in-cheek, eliciting bewildered glances from his teammates. Eisenman waves it off and said he simply viewed the contest as “a fun challenge to try.”
The teams were given three questions they had 15 minutes to solve and then explain the processing and reasoning for their answers. The hardest of the three, they said was a question using “traffic geometry,” which required that they find the shortest distance between two points using block-boundary movements on a grid-based path.
The concept is not as esoteric as it might seem from its name, once it is defined. Hint: anyone who has tried to direct a cab through a busy urban landscape for a meeting they are late for has probably performed some form of this without knowing it.
“This annual competition allows students to show their proficiency in math,” Dr. Jennifer Bergner, Mathematics Competition coordinator, said in the announcement. She thanked Delmarva Power for its long-standing partnership in cosponsoring the event with Salisbury University’s Department of Mathematics & Computer Science and the Klein G. and Mary Lee Leister Foundation.
  “Delmarva Power believes in supporting education-enhancing activities, and this competition certainly highlights the importance of a solid math education in today’s society,” said John Allen, Delmarva Power Region Vice President.
The winners were awarded Barnes & Noble gift cards and all of the competing students received certificates of participation and commemorative T-shirts, the announcement said.
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