Chatfield mathletes counting their way to success


SUBMITTED PHOTO Members of Chatfield’s Math League include, in front from left, Bailey Shaffer, Taytem Mogren, Mary Burshem-Hrstka, Jeffrey Brewer, Michael Hrstka, Katie Ihrke and Sloan Clemens. In back are Carly Fitzgerald, Lillian Hanson, Hunter Bernau, Tristen O’Connor, Jack Martinka, Maddie Collett and Sabina Boettcher. Not shown are Ann Warren and Tessa McMahon.
By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

It all adds up, no matter how they subtract, multiply or divide it.

Chatfield students in Math League, a Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) activity that allows students to compete on math tests both individually and as a team, has had success this season as the local mathletes have worked hard, according to Chatfield High School math instructor and Math League advisor Kiya Virgin. The Chatfield Math League team placed fifth in the Three Rivers Division while Katie Ihrke placed in the top 10 for individual scores of the division. 

“We are so proud of you and thankful for your leadership on our team, Katie,” said Virgin.  “And special congratulations to Lillian Hanson, who was the highest scoring freshman mathlete from any school in the Three Rivers.  Way to go, Gophers!”

Math League is for students in grades nine through 12. Junior High Math League is for seventh and eighth graders, although Chatfield did not field a junior high team this year after having one the past three years. 

This year, Virgin has quite a few mathletes with about two-thirds of them young women. The teams include freshmen Hunter Bernau, Carly Fitzgerald, Lillian Hanson, Taytem Mogren, Tristen O’Connor and Bailey Shaffer, sophomores Mary Burshem-Hrstka and Tessa McMahon, juniors Jeffrey Brewery, Michael Hrstka and Jack Martinka, and seniors Sabina Boettcher, Sloan Clemens, Maddie Collett, Katie Ihrke and Ann Warren.

There are eight students to a team – or they work individually to contribute to their team’s score. Students use practice tests and examples to prepare for the meets with practice once a week on Thursdays during Flex Time. 

“At meets, students gather in a cafeteria and get to enjoy a snack of milk and cookies,” she said.  “Then, they take two of the four individual tests for 12 minutes each.  So, a student may take Test A and D one meet, and their teammate might take tests A and B.  Students who get the questions correct score points for the eight-person team.  Then, these eight mathletes take the team test for 20 minutes.  Some students compete in an exhibition/junior varsity way, taking two individual tests and earning points, but those do not count towards our team total.”

The Three Rivers Division offers five meets per season.  The division includes Dover-Eyota High School, Plainview-Elgin-Millville High School, Wabasha-Kellogg High School, La Crescent High School, St. Charles High School and Lewiston-Altura High School.  The schools take turns as member schools hosting one of the five yearly meets. 

Top individual scorers and top teams in a “virtual” division, which includes many more schools, go on to the state competition. 

Parents can volunteer to proctor tests for Chatfield’s home meet, which will be in November next year if anyone would like to get involved. 

Virgin remarked that she likes being the Math League coach: “It is so fun to work with these bright students in a different way.  Working on challenging practice problems, taking the bus with them to the meets – it all allows me to get to know them better and to know their personalities outside of a classroom setting.  I like that they get to be challenged and even frustrated at times, because I think it allows them to develop perseverance.

“Students are able to be challenged in math – something that doesn’t always happen for them in the classroom.  They build the skills of working hard and learning from their mistakes.  Plus, students earn activity points through our high school system.  Math League allows students to experience topics in mathematics we do not typically get to cover or only get to touch on in high school mathematics courses.  It is quite challenging and exposes students to higher-level mathematics.”