Island high schools compete for shot at regional math league championship
'This is a place I feel I can use my abilities, this is a field I feel comfortable with'
High school students from across the Island put their minds together and their pens to paper as they faced off in the first season for the P.E.I. Math League on Saturday.
The event was hosted by the University of Prince Edward Island in co-operation with the Nova Scotia Math League. It's the first time Island schools have had the chance to participate in the competition.
Students compete in teams, working against the clock, to solve a range of different math problems and puzzles.
Shannon Fitzpatrick, associate dean of the School of Mathematical and Computational Sciences at UPEI, said she's been trying to open the competition to students on P.E.I. for some time. She said the university was looking for ways to get more high school students excited about math.
"Anything that gets students doing math in a fun, creative way definitely helps," Fitzpatrick said. "Sometimes the typical-route mathematics that is definitely necessary in your high school years doesn't always seem to be the most exciting approach.
"If we can do something that's fun and competitive then I think the interest levels increase and math is viewed as being a fun thing and not an onerous thing."
'Thinking outside the box'
Nearly 30 students from Charlottetown Rural, Bluefield High, Morell Regional and Montague Regional high schools competed with the hope of making it to the regional championships.
Fitzpatrick said Saturday's event was the second round of the P.E.I. competition, with a final round taking place in March.
Finalists with the top scores on P.E.I. will advance to the playoffs in April, competing against schools from across Nova Scotia for the regional championship.
Justin Yang, a Grade 12 student from Charlottetown Rural, is one of those vying for the title. He said competing with his team is an exciting way to use the skills he learns in the classroom.
"I feel accomplished when I solve one question and I like the look on my friends' faces when I solve a difficult question," Yang said. "This is a place I feel I can use my abilities. This is a field I feel comfortable with."
Rebakah Cutler, a Grade 11 student at Bluefield, said the competition has given her a glimpse of some of the ways math can be used in day-to-day life.
"This is a lot more thinking outside the box and doing real life applications to our problems instead of just sticking with them in a classroom setting and stuff," Cutler said.
"I'm really glad I got this opportunity while I'm still in high school. … We were part of the first of this new generation of math on P.E.I. instead of just the classroom setting, we're doing it more widespread."
Plans to become annual event
Students also had the chance to work through problems with math professors and students at UPEI, which Fitzpatrick said is a great way to show them the options they have if they pursue math as a career.
"Coming out of high school, you don't always know what people who do math do as a career," Fitzpatrick said. "I think coming and talking to different faculty here, you can find out about the different opportunities that are available."
Fitzpatrick said UPEI plans to make the competition an annual event and hopes this year's teams inspire other schools to join.
"I'm really excited about the turnout that we've had. If we can expand this and maybe get some other P.E.I. schools involved, either coming to Charlottetown or setting up other regional competitions, we would love to see this grow."