PCC Math Team Quietly Racking Up Awards
Pasadena City College is well-known in the community for its Tournament of Roses Honor Band, the success of the women’s basketball team, and its impressive transfer rate to four-year institutions. While all of these achievements deserve the spotlight, it’s about time that one of the college’s lesser-known and equally winning traditions is showcased.
Meet the PCC Math Team.
Led by Dr. Jude Socrates, PCC professor of mathematics, the college’s Math Team has placed first in the nation at the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges Student Math League Competition (AMATYC) a total of eight times in the past 22 years (1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2006, and 2008). Additionally, the team has placed in the top three every year since it began competing.
Members of the team have transferred to the nation’s top colleges, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, Caltech, and M.I.T. to earn degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. With so many impressive accomplishments under their collective belts, it’s surprising that they’ve flown under the college community’s radar for so long.
The Field of Competition
Founded in 1974, AMATYC is the only organization exclusively devoted to providing a national forum for the improvement of mathematics instruction in the first two years of college. AMATYC has approximately 2,500 individual members and more than 100 institutional members in the United States and Canada. The national competition is comprised of two “rounds” that are held in November and March with approximately 160 schools participating in each.
The Home Team
Socrates has been serving as PCC’s team moderator since 1994. He joined the faculty of PCC a year prior after finishing his Ph.D. in math at Caltech. “The moderator is in charge of receiving the exam materials, organizing the administration of the exam, recruiting the students, and making sure that all of the rules are followed,” Socrates explained. “Students have exactly 60 minutes to answer 20 mostly multiple choice questions at the algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus level.” The topics covered include logic, counting, probability, algebra, graphing, trigonometry, and open-ended problems. While upwards of 30 to 90 students participate in the AMATYC at PCC, only the top five students in each round are chosen to represent the school as the math team.
“My colleagues and I recruit students from the upper-level math classes that we teach,” Socrates said. “Students from trigonometry onwards are encouraged to participate, although the students who eventually score are usually in the calculus level.”
Hongyue Zhang, a chemistry major at PCC, has been a member of the Math Team for the past year. “I love math and I wanted to challenge myself,” Zhang explained as his reasons for joining the team. “There are always things that I can learn from other team members.”
With such a talented and hard working pool of students to draw from, and a moderator with a keen sense for talent, it is almost certain that the PCC Math Team will continue to thrive in the future.