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Honors add up at Vestavia Hills for Liberty math team

On Saturday mornings, most teenagers sleep late or play video games. Math teams from Liberty Middle School left at 6 a.m. on Dec. 10 to rack up awards at the Vestavia Hills Math Tournament.

Students competed from more than 60 schools in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. The competition included 1,400 students in grades 6-12 in large and small school divisions.

Liberty student Sai ‘Sunny’ Chennupati placed first in geometry for the large school division. The geometry team took third place for the division. For seventh grade, Joey Li ranked eighth among 200 students. For eighth grade, Kevin Duan won first place, Pratheek Bobba was thirteenth and Liberty took fourth place.

“The algebra I team did well, also. Our kids have worked hard,” principal Dr. Brian Clayton said. Clayton, Billie Wilhelm and Nancy Hartfield sponsor the teams. Wilhelm, Hartfield and Laura Botkin teach pre-algebra.

“We didn’t have a geometry team coach so Dr. Clayton volunteered to help,” Wilhelm said. “How many principals would do that?”

Geometry questions usually are the most difficult. “Students aren’t given any formulas. Everything must be memorized,” Wilhelm said.

She offered the following sample: “Robert Griffin is tied to the outside edge of a 7-by-17 inch barn with a 12-inch rope. What is the largest area in which he can graze? Answer in terms of pi.”

The competition’s written tests have 25 multiple choice problems. “Students also cipher. They’re given a problem to answer usually in 90 seconds. The quicker the student answers, the more points the team receives,” Wilhelm said.

Students “are taught to think quickly. They learn shortcuts and are surrounded by friends that enjoy math and realize it’s OK to be smart,” Wilhelm said

Students may join or leave math team at any time, accommodating time with sports or other activities.

To join the seventh-grade team, students must be enrolled in pre-algebra. For eighth grade, they must take algebra I. Ninth-graders taking geometry during first compose the geometry team. Algebra II students during second semester are on the algebra II team.

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