Profile: Math team vs West Side Story


Layla Hannaford, Video Editor and Broadcast Manager

West High’s most successful team isn’t basketball or football, it’s math team. Winning every single competition so far this year, and the state competition for the past ten years in a row, the math team is very talented. But what is the secret to their  success?

WSS investigated some of the math team traditions recently including a card game, state baseball caps, bad suits and a special math club on Fridays. We also profiled some of the members to ask about the traditions.

Some WSS staffers decided to go head to head with the math team and try to beat them at their own game: math. The result was the video above. Check back later for the profiles and pictures.

Filmed and edited by Layla Hannaford

Pranav Krishnamurthy ’18- Not many people love math, let alone make a game out of it. This is something that the math team embraces.

“In math club we play this game called Zheng Shang You, also known as Chinese poker.”Krishnamurthy said. “We usually play with anywhere from 4-6 people, it’s similar to poker except there is no betting.”

Krishnamurthy, the only freshman, has seen the significance of this game that is special to the math team.

“Ever since I’ve been in the math club, this is the game that everyone plays,” Krishnamurthy said. “We usually play after math club or at competitions.”

Krishnamurthy has savored his experience so far at math club.

“I like math club because you get food and you get to travel places and you get to hang out with friends.” Krishnamurthy said.

Krishnamurthy has big goals as a freshman.

“My individual goal is to make it to regionals and do well. As a team, it is probably to win regionals.” Krishnamurthy said.

He finds inspiration for his mathematical success from many different people.

“My dad, [Northwest Junior High math teacher] Mr. Norton, Mr. Kirpes, and Jun-Hee [Lee ’17] all inspire me in math,” Krishnamurthy said.

Max Hill ’17- West High finds success everywhere. The math team might exemplify this success the best. The math team has won state the past 10 years and continues to assert its dominance.

“I think West High’s tradition of winning state stems from a strong school area, with a college being around us, and I think we train hard,” said Max Hill ’17. Their road to state is a relatively easy one, due to the strong members of the math team. However, one school always stands in their way.

“The hardest competition comes from Central Academy.” said Hill. “They’re based out of Des Moines, and they are a magnet school, which means they have several smart people.”

As an underclassman, Hill finds himself on a comfortable spot on the team without much pressure. He acknowledges the varsity players that lead the team, which include Junhee Lee ‘18, Casey McClenathan ‘17, Elizabeth Han ‘16, Kai Trepka ‘16 and Amy Xiong ‘15.

“Our varsity guys go to a lot of competitions,” Hill said. “They’re really smart.” After all their math state championships, the team does not leave empty-handed.

“When we win state, we get these hats. They’re green and like baseball caps,” Hill said. Behind all the success is a group of talented mathematicians who like to get together on Tuesdays, eat food, and do some math.

“I like math club because of the food, but the people are also surprisingly cool,” Hill said.

While math team members are rarely regarded as gurus of style, most of their fashion choices are not quite as questionable as the “Xtremely Bad Suits” some members wear to competitions.

“There are a couple of special competitions throughout the year in other states usually, and it’s their state qualifier, so we show up and we beat them and we do it wearing bad suits,” said Elizabeth Han ’16, proud owner of one such suit. To clarify, a bad suit is pretty ugly. Most of them date back from an era prior to their current owners birth (think 80s) so there’s a lot of polyester.

“There’s this plaid suit which is already bad enough on its own, but the top doesn’t match the bottom so it creates an interesting ripple effect,” Han said. Suits are passed down from graduating members at the end of the year math club banquet, currently there are about six of them in circulation as it were.

“There’s a beautiful pink one with a skirt for a bottom that doesn’t look ridiculous at all,” Han said. “I myself have have this wonderful banana yellow suit that is far too long.”

While its unclear how the suits started, the name can be traced back to a competition many years ago where members gave their team name as “Xtremely Bad Suits”

The suits are, well, extremely bad, so it leads to the question of why someone would wear them.

“I think it’s more [that] you feel a sense of pride, like ‘look at all you plebeians who don’t have beautiful suits,’” said Han. The suits also seem to be a good luck charm considering West’s luck so far this year and past years at winning competitions.

“It’s great to beat other people at their own math competitions, but it’s even better to do it with style,” said Han.

The school is usually almost deserted on a Friday afternoon, but look inside room 206 and you will see people standing around with cups of soda socializing, sitting at desks writing seriously, arguing over a complicated diagram on the smart board or chalkboard, playing a lively game of cards or crowded around desk with a laptop. While this might not look like a math club, F3 or Fun For Fridays shows a more social side of math.

“It’s a club where we go to do some really challenging math problems and eat food and hang out with other people who like to do really challenging math problems,” said Michael Dlouhy ’15, one of the members.

There are actually two math clubs at West. There’s Mu Alpha Theta, which meets on Tuesdays and is more what one thinks of as a traditional math club. They do practice tests and mail in exams and the like. But then there is F3 which meets on Fridays and it is a bit different.

“Math club is an official organization, and F3 is more of a social thing. It’s led by students,” said Dlouhy. How did it come to be that there were two math clubs however?

According to the official website “[some students came up with and idea for a club where] students could try their hands at math even more advanced than that regularly found at math club and most competitions. They [those students] would release an F Cubed sheet at the beginning of each week, and then members would meet each Friday to discuss the solutions. It was, in concept, similar to CHAMPS, the weekly problem set for AMPS, the class taught in room 206 just before F Cubed meets.” Through some of the aspects have changed over the years, it has kept the same idea.

“[At a typical meeting] we put out some treats and sheets of math problems created by one of our tetrarcs then we get some treats and math problems,” said Dlouhy. Tetrarcs are the leaders of F3

 “We have four leaders called tetraches the prefix tetra meaning four and they create sheets for math problems and they make sure there is an order of people to bring treats and encourage math wherever possible” said Dlouhy who is a tetrarch himself. Even if you aren’t the best at math, stop by one Friday and have some fun just trying something new, you might find you like it.