The Kiski School has “one for the thumb.” The college preparatory boarding school in Saltsburg, Pa., captured its fifth consecutive championship of the StrongLand Chamber of Commerce Math League competition Feb. 20 at Penn State New Kensington. The phrase was popularized by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ successful quest for a fifth Super Bowl in 2006.
Kiski School compiled 63 points to pull away from Kiski Area High School and Burrell High School who tied for the silver medal. The two-day competition, spread over the fall and spring semesters, featured more than 120 students from nine area high schools answering mathematical questions.
Sponsored by the StrongLand Chamber of Commerce, the annual competition brings together students from Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Ford City, Freeport, Kiski Area, Kiski School, Kittanning, Leechburg and Valley high schools, and gives them the chance to go head-to-head in an academic competition. Each school can field up to three teams of five students, competing against all the other teams in each round. Students answer two sets of eight questions. They are allowed 25 minutes to answer each set. The questions in algebra, geometry and other areas of mathematics were developed by Ge Mu, instructor in mathematics, and Xiang Ji, assistant professor of mathematics, at Penn State New Kensington.
“It is very encouraging to witness the young generation participating in the contest with strong passions towards mathematics,” said Mu, second-year director of the event. “As we all know, the whole nation is working very hard on the education in STEM fields.”
The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus is meant to prepare Pennsylvania students for global competitiveness through a strategy of enhanced education and career development opportunities. The initiatives are designed to increase the number of students, especially females, minorities and the underrepresented, in the STEM fields.
The Match League competitions began in 1986 under the direction of David Wells, associate professor of mathematics at the campus, who retired in 2012. Mu replaced Wells on the campus faculty and as head of the math competition. In the 27 years of competition, five schools have hoisted the championship trophy. Kiski Area earned 14 titles, including a record eight consecutive wins from 1999-2005. Kiski School follows with seven. The two schools have captured the previous 16 crowns, from 1999 to the present. Burrell owns three trophies and Apollo-Ridge has two. Valley was the inaugural winner.
“The Math League serves as a wonderful way to motivate our students to achieve their best study potentials in mathematics,” said Mu, a native of China.
Mu holds a master of arts in mathematics degree from Penn State's University Park campus, where she taught mathematics for two years before arriving at the New Kensington campus. She has written two books: “Being an Undergraduate in the U.S.” that was published by Heilongjiang Education Press in 2006 and Comprehensive College Algebra – Building Mathematics Insights through Logic and Exercises that was published by Cognella Academic Publishing in 2013. The first book was written when she was an undergraduate and is based on her experiences at Louisiana State University. She was recognized for her publication at LSU’s commencement ceremony in 2008.
Ji joined the New Kensington faculty in 2013 after earning his doctorate in mathematics from Penn State. He secured a master’s degree in mathematics from Beijing University in China. He was a graduate teaching assistant at the University Park campus for four years. Ji’s research interests are differential geometry and mathematical physics. He wrote a book, Comprehensive College Algebra: Building Mathematical Insights Through Logic and Exercises, that was published this year by Cognella Academic Publishing. His wife, Ge Mu, instructor in mathematics at the campus, was the co-author. Ji replaces Javier Gomez-Calderon, professor of mathematics, who retired last year after 27 years at the campus. Mu and Ji are residents of Plum Borough.