Unionville High wins math competition for 2nd year

A team of four students took top prize at Temple University’s Owlympiad

Winners of the Temple University Mathematics Owlympiad, Unionville High School students (from left) Jackie Xu, Alex Shin, Steven Silverman, Meghan Shea celebrate with faculty adviser Carrie Dickmann.

A Unionville High team grabbed an early lead and never looked back Friday, winning the annual Temple University Mathematics Owlympiad for the second year in a row.

“They did a great job,” said Temple’s Michael McCloskey. “Unionville should be very proud of its students.”

He said the team of Steven Silverman, Meghan Shea, Alex Shin, and Jackie Xu won the first round – a 50-question written exam – as well as the second, a section based on the popular trivia game Quizzo. The two teams with the highest combined scores from rounds one and two advanced to the sudden-death lightening round, where Unionville faced Central Bucks West, which had prevailed in its second-place tie-breaker with Lower Merion. Round Three resulted in a 5-1 Unionville win, he said. In addition to the team trophy, each student earned a $100 prize for winning.

Carrie Dickmann, the Unionville faculty advisor for the team, said she was extremely proud of the group. “They not only devote countless hours tostudying for their courses, but they choose to remain after school and drill for math competitions as part of a student-led math club,” said Dickmann, who coordinates the school’s gifted program. “Apart from the thrill of winning the competition for the second straight year, it was a joy for me to spend time laughing and learning beside them. They truly represent the best of our youth and demonstrate what we do so well in this district: educate young minds and develop outstanding citizens.”

McCloskey, a professor in the university’s Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management, said that in addition to promoting mathematics, one of the goals of the competition is to introduce students to career paths in applied mathematics.

He said the department in the university’s Fox School of Business, the largest risk-management school in the country, has been placing nearly 100 percent of its graduates in jobs. “We’re very popular with parents,” he said. “Not all high-school students realize that an actuary uses math skills to calculate risk; so we’re eager to get the word out that this a great field.”

He said the Owlympiad is run by students from the Sigma Chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, an academic fraternity for risk management, insurance and actuarial science majors – from contacting schools to formulating questions for the competition to keeping score. He said last year’s Owlympiad, which Unionville also won, featured juniors from about 50 public, private and parochial schools from the region.

This year’s lower turnout resulted from a conflict with an Advanced Placement history test, which was scheduled for the same day, McCloskey said. In fact, Unionville had only three juniors available and had to get permission to use a sophomore – Shin – so it could participate, he said. He explained that the university likes to limit the competition to juniors to maintain a level playing field and to ensure that different students participate each year.

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