By Beverly Perkins
It was just five years ago that Dr. Radleigh Santos and Mr. Rick Rovere launched American Heritage School’s math competition team. Although the MIT graduate and veteran math teacher have worked together coaching students for over a decade, the dynamic duo recently cheered on their students as they earned the 1st place spot as “best private school in Florida in math competition”.
Dr. Santos, an alumnus of American Heritage, (he was valedictorian of his graduating class), went on to graduate from MIT in 2002, earned a Master’s in Mathematics from Georgia Tech, and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from FAU.
“Our training program this year was the most rigorous ever, and the students were asked to be more committed to the program than ever before; the results show it worked,” said Dr. Santos.
The biggest challenge for the math coaches is managing the program so that it could be successful and fun. In addition to the math team, the multi-dimensional students participate in many other extracurricular activities while maintaining a heavy course load and schedule.
“I love teaching math, and I love math competition,” says Mr. Rovere, director of the American Heritage math competition team. “We built a program where students who love math have a home and can make friends with students who share the same passion for math.” In addition to training for competitions throughout the year, the students on the math team offer over 2,000 hours of free math tutoring as a service to their community.”
“Math competition can be compared to a sporting event in that students have a variety of natural talents, like sports, and in the end, it is the hard work and practice that determines how far a student can go in the program,” adds Dr. Santos. “We do practice a lot.”
Approximately 700 students from the top 52 high schools in math throughout the United States traveled to Buffalo, New York to compete in the 2017 Mu Alpha Theta National Math Competition. American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida was represented by 38 students competing in the 42 individual events and 9 team events. American Heritage took 1st place in 22 events and had 8 perfect scores. After the 3-day competition, American Heritage School of Plantation finished in 1st place overall.
The final math score is determined by a combination of individual achievements and teamwork–both vital for success. According to Dr. Santos, American Heritage’s win at nationals could not have happened without both great individual performances and team performances.
Mr. Rovere sums it up best when he says, “The purity and relevance of math distinguishes it from other academic or non-academic disciplines. It is the most objective activity–the color of your skin, your nationality, whether you are male or female, it doesn’t matter–all you must do is get the right answer and you win.”