Rogers scholar explores mathematics field through Mathcounts
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a series highlighting STEAM education at Haas Hall Academy and how scholars are using their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, art and math to further their academic and professional careers.
BY JULIE SCHWARTZ
Eighth-grader Ellora Tannahill said she has always enjoyed mathematics and regularly practices what she knows to expand her skills.
“Math has been my favorite subject for as long as I can remember,” Tannahill said. “I also have always enjoyed learning new ways to solve problems and new topics in math.”
Tannahill is the Mathcounts team president at Haas Hall Academy Rogers. Mathcounts is a nationwide middle school mathematics competition that challenges scholars to solve math problems in unique and speedy ways. Tannahill said she enjoys utilizing Mathcounts to learn more about math and other lessons that apply to life.
Tannahill said she plans to study aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. She finds daily inspiration in several adults with careers in math and science. One of the most significant people who influences her is family friend Nick Patzer, who is a propulsion engineer at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colo.
Tannahill said that her family once joined Patzer in Florida to watch a rocket launch. This experience and Patzer’s example inspired Tannahill to pursue STEAM academic focus.
“You have to be really committed to do well,” Tannahill said.
To stay successful in math, Tannahill practices a lot outside of school. She utilizes outside resources, like the popular website Khan Academy, for help learning new things. Tannahill said anyone can become good at math if they work hard and never give up. She said she strives to stay ahead in class and on the math team.
The extra practice not only helps her with school, but it also acclimates her mind to solving difficult problems. She thinks Khan Academy is helpful because the repetition helps her master the concept, she said.
“My favorite feature is all the math subjects you can choose from,” Tannahill said. “It is easy to find what you want to work on and I really like the website.”
Although Tannahill enjoys mathematics, she said the subject hasn’t always come easily to her. She had to study for long periods of time to gain a full understanding of mathematics. She struggled with geometry and did not understand it as well as other things.
“I just practiced more and eventually got better at it,” Tannahill said.
Because Tannahill has struggled in math before, she knows what it is like to have trouble and how to improve.
Tannahill said when she has difficulty understanding a problem, she first asks herself if she understands the concept. If she does not understand it, she will ask her teacher or look for answers online. If she does understand the concept, she then practices it until she knows every step of the process.
“Practice is an important part of math,” Tannahill said.
Tannahill uses her talent in this difficult subject to help her fellow scholars. Not only does she tutor after school, but she also assists her friends in math class. Eighth-grade scholar Brenna Lauber said Tannahill tries her best to assist those struggling in class.
“She is really smart and dependable,” Lauber said. “If you need any help with homework, you can just ask her.”
Tannahill’s participation in Mathcounts offers a platform for her to use her skills to represent her school. Mathcounts is a math competition open to sixth- through eighth-graders. There are four rounds in the competition — sprint, target, team and countdown.
The sprint and target rounds are like a timed test, in which participants are graded based on how many questions they answer correctly within a set time frame. The team round is where four team members from a school work against other teams to solve as many problems as possible. In the countdown round, the mathletes use buzzers and try to solve problems faster than their opponents.
“I look forward to getting to compete for the first time,” Tannahill said. “I’m excited to see what it will be like after studying for so long to finally get to use what I have learned.”
Rogers Mathcounts coach and math teacher Vinay Kalyankar said he believes that Tannahill and the rest of the team are improving a lot. Even though this is the team’s first year competing, Kalyankar said he thinks Tannahill’s leadership and perseverance will help their team do well in the upcoming competition.
“I think we will win big,” Kalyankar said.
Tannahill believes that joining Mathcounts has helped her grow in the subject because they learn tricks and easier ways to solve math problems. Being on the team has given Tannahill an advantage in her regular math class, she said.
“I originally joined Mathcounts to learn math that wasn’t available to me this year, and I have discovered a lot of new things that will be helpful in the future,” Tannahill said.