Competition + Buchholz = Success


Andrew Robeson, center, from Douglas High School plays a card game called 24 with his other teammates Saturday after competing in the algebra II and geometry state math competition at Buchholz High School. Twenty-four is a math game where you flip four cards over and use any form of math to come up with a sum of 24.

KRISTEN HINES/Special to The Sun
Published: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 3:19 a.m.

Will Frazer has a message for kids who hate algebra.

"I have a friend who is 40 and is a millionaire," said Frazer, a former Wall Street numbers cruncher and coach of the Buchholz High School mathematics team.

"And all he has is a math degree."

Judging from the turnout at Buchholz's Mu Alpha Theta Math Competition on Saturday, it's a lesson students can relate to.

For more than three hours, 1,200 youngsters from across Florida and Alabama crowded into Buchholz's classrooms to try their hand at tests formulated by Frazer and his team of 70 students.

Some categories, like the team event in geometry, allowed for collaboration, while others focused on individual skills. In the end, students from Vestavia Hills High School in Alabama took home top honors, including a first place trophy for team testing in Algebra II.

But for many who traveled to Gainesville from out of town or across state lines, the day wasn't only about winning. It was also a chance to catch up with friends, and strut their analytic stuff.

"It's exciting," said Seva Tchernov, 16, who was clutching a collection of awards earned for his school, the champion Vestavia Rebels. "It's fun to get trophies, and it could help (us) get into college, and get a job."

And nothing beats preparing for competitive long division, he said.

"We basically just take the previous year's test. That's pretty much all we do for training," Tchernov explained.

"Then we play video games."

Mr. Vu, a parent from Tallahassee who was watching the awards ceremony, said he was proud of his daughter for competing and wished more students would excel in academics.

"We always support the kids when they participate in math competitions," said Mr. Vu, 57, who gave only his last name. "We need to put more emphasis on this type of educational event, and not always on sports. "

Josh Weiss, a senior at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, had a more practical explanation for his desire to dominate the world of high school math.

"It may not be used in your job, but math is needed to balance your check book, whether you like it or not," Weiss said.

That, in a way, is exactly why Buchholz decided to hold the competition in the first place: To pad its wallet.

Since last year, the students on Frazer's team have been preparing for Saturday's event drafting tests and making plans.

Rules governing math events prohibit the organizing school from competing, but Frazer said the hours spent organizing will be worth it in August, when Buchholz uses the $4,000 raised in registration fees to travel to Hawaii, and compete in the national championships.

"We were fifth in the nation last year, and we think we're going to do better this year," Frazer said as he packed up boxes and prepared to head home.

"This is all part of achieving that goal."

Greg Bruno can be reached at (352) 374-5026.

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