Math Trip to Yale

Zach Buller ’20

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On Sunday, April 14th, nine Ramaz students participated in the annual Math Majors of America Tournament for High Schools (MMATHS) at Yale University. Accompanied by Dr. Fabio Nironi, Zach Buller ’20, Jacob Davis ’21, Eitan Linhart ’21, Anna Braun ’22, Ben Cole ’22, Finley Horowitz ’22, Eric Kalimi ’22, Sally Neugarten ’22, and Corey Title ’22, all of whom were invited by Rabbi Stern to participate, left Ramaz bright and early for the trip up to New Haven.

Ramaz brought home quite a few awards. Eitan Linhart ‘21 won 6th place in the individual competition. In the mixer round, Zach Buller ‘20 along with his group won 1st place, Jacob Davis ‘21 along with his group won 2nd place, and Finley Horowitz ‘22 along with her group won 3rd place.

MMATHS was founded a number years ago by Mitchell Harris, a Jewish student at Yale. Originally, the MMATHS competition was only on Saturdays, hindering Shomer-Shabbat Jews’ ability to participate. When Ramaz graduate Esther Malka Issever ’14 got to Yale and became friends with Mitchell, she learned that “as a Jewish student, Mitchell always felt sad that Orthodox Jews couldn’t participate in his competition. [Mitchell] knew I was Orthodox so he asked me to plan an alternate date so Sabbath-observers could participate. I was always upset there weren’t many math competitions when I was in high school (aside from the AMC which we just took in a Ramaz classroom), so I was excited to take up his offer.” Issever started the Yeshiva-high school friendly competition three years ago during her freshman year in college.

Issever noted that “in the past, I reached out to schools [to invite them to the competition] on my own, however these last few years, we’ve developed a great team that really all works on this together. We contact schools to invite them to compete, organize special hotel rates for out-of-town schools that stay for Shabbat, order the food, and reserve the venue. But we leave the test writing to the main competition coordinators.”

Thanks to Harris’ and Issever’s initiative, the Sunday MMATHS attracted 13 Yeshiva high schools from all over the country, including the Yavneh Academy of Dallas, Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Maimonides School in Boston, as well as Flatbush, Frisch, Heschel, Kushner, Maayanot, Manhattan High School for Girls, SAR, and TABC from the greater New York area. The day served not only as an important way for high school math students to develop their logical reasoning skills by solving complex math problems, but also as a social outlet to meet (and reunite with) students from other Yeshiva high schools with similar interests.

The day consisted of four main segments including three rounds of math competitions and a campus tour of Yale, all organized by Issever and her team. First, students competed in the individual round. Here, students had 1 hour and 15 minutes to answer 12 questions in increasing order of difficulty. Both Eitan Linhart ’21 and Dr. Nironi affirmed that the problems in this round were particularly difficult. “The first five problems were doable,” said Nironi, “but as you got to the successive problems, they became really difficult.” The top group of students from this round (along with any ties) moved on to the tie-breaker round to determine the winners.

After the tour and a lunch break, students moved on to the mixer round. In this competition, students from different schools who did not necessarily know each other worked together to solve 14 problems in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Finally, the entire Ramaz team divided into two smaller subgroups to compete in the final round of the competition, the “Mathathon.” Similar to a relay race, students were presented with a set of three problems. After working to solve these problems, a representative from each group ran up to the front of the room to trade in the completed problems for an additional three. Yale students graded these problems and entered the scores in real time, so the students’ hearts pumped as they watched their rankings increase or decrease on the screen in front of them. This was Issever’s favorite part of the competition. “It was so fun as a grader to watch the students work hard together as a team to solve the questions,” she said.

All in all, the Ramaz students had a blast as they were able to both work on types of math problems to which they would not normally be exposed in the standard high school curriculum and spend the day at a world-class university. The Ramaz students look forward to participating in the competition again next year.

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