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MHS students work out best-ever showing at national math competition

Posted: by Patricia Gibson, Communications Director
News Blog Category - News Several Marion High School students competed at the 45th annual Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, this month, bringing home 7 awards, including a national runner-up in one of the competitions.

Mu Alpha Theta National Math Honor Society members pause for a group photo at the Mu Alpha Theta national annual convention and competition in Salt Lake City in July 2015. From left are Micah Hoeksema, Lindsay Ngo, Myla Townsend, Zach Spitzer, Samantha Diedrich, Alyssa Ngo, Nick Spitzer, Megan Griffin, Greer Decker, Elizabeth Wuertley, Elijah Beal, Anne Marie Conrad, Xin Yu Zhao, Abishek Sehgal, and Truman Bennet. (Marion Community Schools)

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MHS was represented by 15 students at the convention, which ran from July 19 through 24. The team placed 16th out of 50 teams nationally, its highest ranking to date at the event. This was the MHS Mu Alpha Theta National Mathematics Honor Society's fourth year competing at the national convention.

Here's a look at the national awards the Giants brought home:
  • Zach Spitzer, a senior, was national runner-up in the Alpha Chalk Talk speech competition in which students present speeches no longer than seven minutes on the assigned topic, this year “Math of the NSA.” The top 10 competitors advance to the final round, and Zach went from not qualifying for the final round last year, to national runner-up this year! 
  • Alyssa Ngo, who graduated from MHS with the Class of 2015, earned fifth place in the Mu Chalk Talk speech competition, this year with the topic of “Math of NORAD.” This is the third year Alyssa has placed seventh or higher in this competition.
  • Also for the third year in a row, Marion placed in the top 10 of the poster competition. Class of 2015 graduate Samantha Diedrich has been one of the lead artists all three years. This year, the design team also included sophomore Greer Decker, junior Megan Griffin, junior Lindsay Ngo, and Class of 2015 graduate Myla Townsend. The team earned sixth place with their poster centered on the theme “Math in the Mountains.”
  • Myla Townsend also earned 15th place in the Alpha Gemini, a multiple-choice written test.
  • Senior Elijah Beal earned 12th place in the History of Mathematics test
  • Junior Truman Bennet earned 13th place on the Going the Distance test
  • Doug Porter, MHS math teacher and sponsor of Mu Alpha Theta, earned fourth place in the Sponsor Mental Math competition.
Other Mu Alpha Theta members competing were Class of 2015 graduate Xin Yu Zhao, senior Abishek Sehgal, juniors Anne Marie Conrad, Micah Hoeksema, and Nick Spitzer, and sophomore Elizabeth Wuertley.

Students got to stay in the Olympic Village on the campus of the University of Utah, originally used for the 2002 Olympic Games, and also had the opportunity to visit local attractions including Snowbird Ski Resort. The convention also featured workshops, social events, and other activities, as well as award ceremonies.

"These tests are so difficult and I think some people are afraid to try and fail despite trying so hard," Alyssa Ngo told the Chronicle-Tribune in a report on the students' successes. "There are a lot of people to meet and a lot of amazing chances to take if you want. I'm definitely going to take that to college with me."

Mu Alpha Theta is a national mathematics honor society for students in high school and two-year colleges, dedicated to inspiring keen interest in mathematics, developing strong scholarship in the subject, and promoting the enjoyment of mathematics.