January 31, 2023
ROBBINSVILLE, NJ (MERCER)–As a child, Srinand Tanakala found fun in numbers.
There were weekends spent solving puzzles like Sudoku with his sister, in addition to more imaginative games, such as calculating the time between lightning strikes and the ensuing boom of thunder.
Today, Tanakala is president of the Robbinsville High School Math League, a growing student organization that has notched recent wins at mathematics competitions around the community, Mercer County and the entire state.
“Math is incredibly thoughtful and trying to think out processes and working together to find solutions to difficult problems is what I have found most rewarding,” Tanakala said. “Working with minds truly interested in mathematics and solving problems that stretch beyond the classroom that have real-world connections is what I find most endearing about this club.”
About 30 students are involved in the student organization at Robbinsville High, ranging from freshmen to seniors. The middle school has a similar club that is also known for its competitive success.
Most of the contests are individual-based; students take written tests and work through complex problems from basic algebra to geometry and pre-calculus.
The competitions are not just about solving equations. Students must apply logic and creative reasoning to find innovative solutions, according to math teacher Alison Rodriguez, who advises the Math League.
This school year has been one of the most successful yet, she said.
“Students are working so hard and they’re putting in the time necessary to be successful and really recognizing that these problems aren’t easy,” said Rodriguez, a veteran educator of 14 years. “They are very, very difficult problems. It has been amazing to watch these students.”
The Math League has finished on top in several recent local competitions, earning first place on December 13 in the Delaware Valley Math League and first place on November 15 and January 17 in the Colonial Valley Math League. Among comparable high schools throughout New Jersey, Robbinsville is consistently landing in the top 15 to 30 schools.
Sarthak Mohapatra, a Robbinsville senior and a member of the Math League since his freshman year, also scored among the top 2.5 percent of competitors in the national American Mathematics Competition. Mohapatra has qualified to take the next round of tests called the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME), a 15-question, three-hour examination. Students who earn a top score on the AIME can then take the United States Math Olympiad or United States Junior Math Olympiad exams, among the most prestigious mathematics contests in the country.
Some students also have earned perfect scores at competitions, such as Aarush Mane. The 14-year-old freshman said he’s been interested in math since he was a child fascinated by rockets.
Mane said his involvement in the program has helped him in more ways than one. Math League, he said, has made him a better problem-solver.
“It’s definitely improving my work ethic in many classes,” said Mane, who dreams of becoming an astronaut. “For me, Math League has not just introduced me to more complex math, but in other areas I’ve learned how you can approach problems in unique ways. It has improved my critical thinking skills, viewing certain situations in different ways.”
Likewise, even though students take individual tests, Tanakala emphasized that teamwork has been central to the club’s success.
“Collaboration is key,” Tanakala said. “We heavily emphasize working together and keeping up sportsmanship. We help each other. We give each other moral support. Any time a person wins a medal, we feel that the whole club has won it.”
After graduation, the 18-year-old senior plans to double major in pre-medicine and computer science in college with the goal of becoming a surgeon.
It is a career path, he said, that illustrates the wide application of mathematical knowledge.
“Math is something that people should not view as restricted to purely a math major,” Tanakala said. “It’s something that stretches to many aspects of the world and society.”
Above Photo: Aarush Mane, teacher Alison Rodriguez and Srinand Tanakala. Photo provided
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