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Flower Mound wins 10th annual Calculus Bowl

Flower Mound High School took the top prize for the second time in three years.
Flower Mound High School took the top prize for the second time in three years.

Pickard Hall was the site of fierce competition Friday, February 5, as teams of high school students from across the Metroplex converged for the 10th annual UT Arlington Calculus Bowl. The event, in which teams of up to five students compete to be the first to answer a variety of calculus problems, allows students to showcase their knowledge and shows that it's not just athletics that stir enthusiasm and competitive spirit for high school kids.

When the last problem had been solved, Flower Mound High School walked away with first place, winning for the second time in three years. North Hills Preparatory School in Irving claimed second place in a sudden-death playoff over Lake Highlands High School.

"Our calculus teacher (Russell Yeatts) and I feel very proud of our kids because all the teams were very good this year and we won it on the last question," said Mary Walker, Flower Mound High School math teacher and team coach. "In other words, they stood up to the pressure."

Flower Mound's team consisted of Luke Cragin, Tyler Fugere, Manuel Hernandez, Joseph Klein and Matt Svach.

"The contest is very challenging because it is not just what you know. It is also how fast can you recall it," Walker said. "Some teams answered just as many questions correctly, but we just answered those questions more quickly. During the final round, I turned to Mr. Yeatts and said, 'I guess this must be how those basketball coaches feel when the team hits a three at the buzzer.'"

This year's event featured a record 28 teams, surpassing last year's total of 24. The opening ceremony had to be moved from Pickard Hall to a bigger auditorium in University Hall to accommodate all the students, team coaches and supporters. The crowd was treated to a performance of "Calculus: The Musical!", a two-person comedy which used song and dance to explain some of the basic principles of calculus.

"We're really pleased with the success of the event," said Jianping Zhu, chair of the Department of Mathematics. "It's something the students always enjoy, and again this year we had many bright students who performed very well."

The North Hills team, consisting of Rohit Bachal, Gabriel Earle, Richa Lavingia, Richard LeVan and Meyappan Subbaiah, grabbed the runner-up trophy in just its second Calculus Bowl appearance.

Teams sat in groups, with paper and calculators at the ready, as a series of multiple choice problems were shown on a projection screen. Teams had one minute to answer each problem. The team that buzzed in on an electronic clicker with the correct answer first received three points, with the second and third-fastest teams earning two and one point, respectively. Incorrect answers were penalized a point. The top teams from the preliminary rounds advanced to the finals.

The teams were treated to pizza between rounds. Many wore special T-shirts created for the event, and spirit awards were presented to the teams with the best themed attire. Calvary Christian Academy students, competing for the first time, wore T-shirts reading "Real Mathletes Play Calculus" and were surprised by the fast pace of the event.

"We weren't quite used to how fast you have to answer," Calvary Christian coach Etta Brewerton said. "The kids did a good job for their first time."

This year, a new Mathematics Competition was added on Saturday, Feb. 6, offering students a chance to compete individually in a series of multiple choice and essay questions. The event drew 27 students, with Benedikt Kroll of the Oakridge School in Arlington and Dominic Yurk of Paschal High School tying for first place. Will Linz of Holy Trinity Catholic High School placed third, while Gabriel Earle of North Hills was fourth and Ryan Jones of St. Ignatius College Preparatory School was fifth.

North Hills Prepatory School placed second, winning a playoff over Lake Highlands.
North Hills Prepatory School placed second, winning a playoff over Lake Highlands.

UT Arlington associate professor of math Hristo Kojouharov, who created the Calculus Bowl and serves as its director, is pleased with the event's growth and the excitement it creates for the participating teams as well as the university.

"It's been a good thing for us and hopefully, we'll be able to keep improving it," he said.

Kojouharov's idea sprang from a similar event held by the University of Wyoming when he was a doctoral student there in the late 1990's. Wyoming's event was largely for area community colleges. He originally tried to start UT Arlington's event for area colleges but was met with limited enthusiasm, so he shifted the focus to high schools, which allows UT Arlington to use the event as a recruiting showcase.

From the first Calculus Bowl in 2001, when just one high school, Arlington Lamar, competed against a handful of UT Arlington teams, the event has grown rapidly.

"It's very good to see how the event has grown and continues to grow," Zhu said. "It's a wonderful way to get students excited about math."