Sandy Creek Math Team shares love for their favorite subject

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Members of the Sandy Creek Varsity Math Team take a moment before a morning meeting. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

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The JV team shows off the trophy from a recent competition.

by Russell Cooks

Sandy Creek High School is a school of excellence in every single category. It is excellent in academics, fine arts, performing arts, and athletics. One of their many bright spots is the Sandy Creek Math Team.
The mission of the Math Club is to promote the beauty and mystery of mathematics and to strive to solve challenging math problems not found in the regular classroom.
Senior Heyley Gatewood says, “I love the math team. The university where I am going does not have a math team, so I am going to start one. Being on the math team is a choice. You participate and compete because you want to, not because you have to.”
Junior Phaidra Buchanan agrees, “The thing that I love about the math team is you have people who all love the power of math. The questions are out-of-the-box. You make friends with people who also love math. A big element is you get to learn what you want to learn and not what somebody else tells you to learn.
There are two very unique features of the Sandy Creek Team, the size of the squad and their math lab. The highest  number of members in other Fayette County  No other school in Fayette County has a math lab.
The lab serves two purposes: to provide a support system for non-math team members in working through complex problems and as a refresher for math team members who have moved on a higher level math. By assisting the non-math members, it allows the team members to stay sharp and provide a source of encouragement to the other members of the Sandy Creek community.
Marilyn Ellis, math team sponsor, says, “I think our math team is so large because we are about more than competitions. Our focus is three-fold. First, we sponsor a peer-run math lab where the students can give back to their school by tutoring their peers. Second, some of our members represent the school in competitions. Third, we provide a place for them to be together with like minded peers who enjoy doing out of the box math problems once a week during our team meetings.”
The purpose of the math lab is fourfold: help the math team members with recall, help keep the math teams skills up, share the love of math with other students, and give back to their school and their community.
“This is the tenth year that the math team has sponsored a math lab where the team member serve as peer tutors. The lab was started in 2004 by the Mu Alpha Theta group at the school. We took it over in 2006,” says Ellis. “The math lab is open four days a week before and after school. Students make drop in for the help they need on their math homework or preparing for a test or quiz. No appointment is needed.”
Senior Russell Cooks, Jr. says, “The math lab is also great because you get to teach the students around you, and you get to refresh some of your math skills. It allows you to stay sharp. The most gratifying thing is when students who you have helped come back and show you how well they did in the class. The students winning in the classroom and you helping them to build the confidence in math is an awesome feeling.”
Freshman Armoni Cook says, “I love the math lab and the tutors.”
Freshman Kristopher James adds, ” I have met with great math tutors Russell Cooks and Evan Jester. I have enjoyed my experience expanding my knowledge. Even though math is hard my experience in the math lab makes it a lot easier.”
The Sandy Creek Math Team competes on two different levels. On the varsity level, the teams compete in pre-calculus and calculus, and the junior varsity competes in AP Statistics, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry
At most competitions the team competes in two different areas, ciphering and a written test, the JV and Varsity squads competing separately. In ciphering, if you solve the problem in one minute, you get 10 points. If you solve the problem in two minutes, you get five points. In the written competition you are allowed to use  calculators. The teams are given 20 questions and they have 30 minutes to answer the questions.
Overall, the Sandy Creek Math Team has won four competitions this year.
Twenty-five Sandy Creek students had the opportunity to participate in the Fourth Annual Math Competitions Bootcamp at Morehouse College in August. Sandy Creek won the 9th grade award (John Suess), the 11th grade award (Krista Jackson), the 12th grade award (Heyley Gatewood), and the overall award (Phaidra Buchanan). Angel Adams, Dominic Adams, Emmanuel Aneke, Stephanie Arreola, Anna Bridgeman, Emma Bryan, Phaidra Buchanan, Janna Campbell, Alvin Cotson, Rachel Davis, Emily DeGrange, Heyley Gatewood, Elmer Gonzalez, Kati Gossett, Anna Hyde, Krista Jackson, Jin Kim, Ethan Knight-Scott, Kristina Longacre, Karim Naji, Ping Ni, Karena Oun, Abraham Respert, John Suess, and Amber Sullivan did a wonderful job of representing Sandy Creek.
The Sandy Creek Varsity Math Team placed 1st in Division 2 at Griffin RESA in January. The following students participated in the event: Russell Cooks, Heyley Gatewood, Eli Presberg, Elmer Gonzalez, and Phaidra Buchanan.
They participated in the 45th Annual Math Day Competition at the University of West Georgia in February. The competition consisted of four tests that challenged the students’ mathematical ability in Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Math, and Calculus. Individually, Katalin Gossett placed in the top six on the Algebra test, Anna Hyde placed 1st overall on the Algebra test, Phaidra Buchanan placed in the top six on the Advanced Math test, and Nathan Eason placed 3rd overall on the Advanced Math test. Overall, the Sandy Creek Math Team placed 3rd out of 19 schools.
The JV squad also placed 3rd at the Fayette County Invitational on March 9. All of the dedicated students that participated in the event were Will Browning, Emma Bryan, Janna Campbell, Akilah Duncan, Anna Hyde, Abraham Respert, John Suess, Amber Sullivan, Paul Buchanan, Phaidra Buchanan, Portia Buchanan, Russell Cooks, Tajah Damm, Nathan Eason, Jin Kim, and Evan Jester.
Asked what he enjoys most about the competitions, Cooks says, “The thrill of the competitions is great. Being able to problem solve and move through the progression as light bulbs are going off in your head is just an exhilarating experience.”
The Sandy Creek Math Team isn’t just excelling in the math competitions. They are also being recognized for their mathematical brilliance at the state level. There are four members who are finalist  for Georgia’s Governors Honors Program  this year: John Abraham Respert, Anna Bridgeman, Krista Jackson, and Rachel Davis.
The Georgia Governor’s Honors Program (GHP) is a residential summer program for gifted and talented high school students who will be rising juniors and seniors during the program. The program offers instruction that is significantly different from the typical high school classroom and that is designed to provide students with academic, cultural, and social enrichment necessary to become the next generation of global critical thinkers, innovators, and leaders.
Asked her perspective on the math team, junior Rachel Davis, says, “I enjoy challenging myself. I love the fact that you don’t deal with typical questions. I have made friends that also share my passion for math. It is great to learn, to grow, and to stretch yourself.”
Evan Jester, basketball star and math team star, says, “The math team is something where I can compete doing my favorite subject with a group of friends and have fun with no strict restrictions holding me back, somewhere you can just do math without worrying and stressing over a grade.”
Alva McMillan, a team sponsor along with Marilyn Ellis and Alva McMillan, says, “Each year we strive to excel at the math competitions, provide excellent peer tutoring, and increase student involvement. The math team members continue to be the shining stars of our math program. I am proud to be a part of their academic growth and witness their development each year at Sandy Creek High School.”
When asked what has it meant to be a member of the Math Team, 2016 Valedictorian Chandini Kannan says, “Being a part of math team has made me feel as if I’m apart of a team in which we do more than just tutor students and compete, but also show others that even math can be enjoyable when a part of a team like ours at Sandy Creek.
“I am extremely excited to be the class of 2016 valedictorian. It’s a great feeling, knowing I’ve accomplished something I have been working towards for four years. The math team and competition kept me sharp and I am sure that it contributed to my success in other classes.”
Principal Robert Hunter appreciates the passion of the math team. “Our students compete at high levels in athletics, academics, and the performing arts, however, our goal is for continuous improvement in every category. We want to thoroughly prepare our students for post-secondary education, but also afford them the opportunity to excel in the extracurricular activities that they are truly passionate about.”

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