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Mu Alpha Theta students flex their brain power

It was an impressive display of brainpower put forth by some of the top young math minds in South Florida.

The 24th annual Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Regionals Competition attracted over 700 students from 28 middle schools and high schools throughout South Florida. The event featured group and individual competitions in algebra, algebra 2, statistics, geometry, precalculus and calculus and took place at the Florida Atlantic University Davie campus.

Mu Alpha Theta is a mathematics honor society for high school and two-year college students, and promotes and challenges students to excel and enjoy the subject of math.

After missing last year due to COVID-19, the students were eager to show off their skills and talents at a top-area math competition.

American Heritage School Plantation has hosted the Florida Association of Mu Alpha Theta’s math competition since 2015 and once again put on a dominating team and individual performance.

Doral Academy Middle School, Doral Academy High School, American Heritage School Boca/Delray, Falcon Cove Middle School and Cypress Bay High School enjoyed strong showings.

The top sweepstakes winners were American Heritage School Plantation, followed by American Heritage School Boca/Delray and Doral Academy High.

FAU’s Dr. Markus Schmidmeier has been one of the key organizers of the annual Mu Alpha Theta event. He was joined by interim dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, Dr. Teresa Wilcox, who served as the host, along with Richard Rovere, the director of math competition at American Heritage School Plantation.

Rovere is a retired math teacher who had been at American Heritage for 18 years. He was appreciative of the assistance the students have received over the years from the Mu Alpha Theta math organization.

Richard Rovere, the director of math competition at American Heritage and one of the organizers of the annual Mu Alpha Theta event, addresses the competitors during the awards ceremony.

“What makes the competition on FAU’s Davie campus so special is the FAU staff provides the best facility, tech support, security and assistance,” Rovere said. “Our school looks forward every year to working with FAU and gives South Florida’s math community a top-flight math competition and great experience.

“Every math competition gives an individual the opportunity to demonstrate the skills and talent they have developed and hopefully win an award,” he said. “With the right attitude, no one ever loses — you either win or learn.”

American Heritage has generated an impressive list of accomplishments with the Mu Alpha Theta Math Competition.

Rovere has plenty of reasons to be proud of his Patriots math team, which has over 140 members. The longtime math department chairperson retired nine years ago but agreed to continue overseeing the Mu Alpha Theta program.

“FAU has been doing this for 24 years and we came into the picture 17 years ago,” Rovere said. “To be successful you have to assemble a team that creates a winning culture. I hired good people who stayed with me a long time. The success starts with those passionate people. We hope more schools will embrace competitions like this.”

The former football and baseball coach takes the same team philosophy approach with his math team at American Heritage. The high expectations are not only expected from the students but also from the teachers.

“I let all the students who join our program know that they are part of a family,” he said. “We take the competitions seriously, follow rules and regulations and expect the students to be the best they can be. Over the years, you get to a critical mass where that culture is embedded with the upperclassman teaching the underclassman what is expected. They follow that successful path. The owners and leaders of our school have made this success possible with their support and foresight.”

One of those leaders on the math team at American Heritage is senior Saathvik Selvan, who took first place in the calculus competition with a perfect score while taking first place with his teammates in the team competition.

dr  Teresa Wilcox, the interim dean of FAU's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, welcomes and addresses over 700 middle and high school students during the Mu Alpha Theta mathematics competition at FAU Davie.

“From January to July, most of the big competitions take place and we have test practices and Saturday meetings to prepare us,” Selvan said. “I’ve competed in these types of competitions since middle school so I’m used to the pressure but it is always exciting. Mu Alpha Theta has created a lot of enthusiasm for math in general and has generated a common bond among the math community.”

Selvan is still waiting to hear back from some colleges before making his commitment. He and his fellow seniors continue to teach their younger teammates in preparation for math competitions.

“He is an amazing young man who is very humble,” Rovere said. “Saathvik is our top gun this year and no one was better than him in the competition. Our students listen to him when he teaches because they can relate to him. The power of a math program will raise the level of the entire school program. We set the bar high and expect the students to get over it.”

Members of the Mu Alpha Theta math club are sometimes referred to as mathletes. They work extremely hard to excel at their craft and put in the extra time to prepare for upcoming competitions.

American Heritage has won a national championship in 2017 and followed that up with a state championship the following year.

The Mu Alpha Theta State Championship will take place in Orlando in April.

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