Gwinnett students take top honors at state math tournament

Timothy Gieseking joined his first math team in second grade. Home-schooled at the time, he loved working through interesting problems with his young teammates.

This year, as a senior at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, Gieseking proved he is the best high school math star in the state, bringing home the individual prize in the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics' State Math Tournament.

Gieseking and classmates Julius Tao, Jason Fan and Albert Kim won the team competition at the April 30 tournament in Macon.

"We make every effort to invite the schools with the best math teams in Georgia so that this is truly a battle of champions," tournament director Chuck Garner, who is GCTM vice president of competitions, said in a Gwinnett County Public Schools press release.

"I was excited for the state tournament this year because I knew we had a strong chance to win," Gieseking said. "Our main competition was Northview High School, who we had both won and lost against in competitions throughout the year."

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Math competitions aren't exactly a spectator sport, GSMST teacher and math coach Robin Miles said. But because of the competition throughout the year, she said it was fun to watch the students' reaction as the results were announced.

Tournaments include multiple-choice tests and cyphering rounds, where points are awarded based on how quickly the answers come. Gieseking said the toughest part of the state competition was a round dedicated to team problem-solving.

"In addition to mathematical skills, this requires communication within the team to successfully work on the problems together," he said.

The Gwinnett School of Math, Science and Technology is a public charter school that was created to focus on the STEM disciplines. It is ranked No. 1 in the state and was named the No. 27 high school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

Math is part of the name of the school, which has a waiting list for attendance, so there is plenty of talent that makes up the team.

About 50 kids show up for math team meetings, Miles said, but only four can compete at a time.

"Participating in math team has been a very valuable experience for me," Gieseking said. "In addition to math, I have also learned problem solving, communication and critical thinking skills."

Gieseking recently graduated and said he plans to major in applied mathematics at Georgia Tech. He said he hopes to have a career that involves using math to solve problems.

Miles, who is stepping down as math team coach to give another teacher the opportunity next year, said she believes the competition is good for the students.

"I believe that winning, in general, gives kids confidence, so I believe that winning state will make the students left behind want to keep winning," she said, pointing out that Gieseking was the only senior on this year's winning team. That gives the remaining students a good shot at a repeat victory next year.

All four of the GSMST math team members were named to the All-State Math Team, which was announced at the end of the state tournament. The All-State team will compete at the nationwide American Regions Math League tournament June 4.

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