By Lizzie Manowitz
Mu Alpha Theta, a national math honor society, recently inducted students into the Byram Hills High School chapter. The induction ceremony was held on Wednesday April 24th. At the event, each student was presented with a certificate, a membership card and a Mu Alpha Theta pin. The students inducted were recognized for their exceptional performance in mathematics and their commitment to leadership and community service projects.
For over ten years, Byram Hills High School has been involved in Mu Alpha Theta alongside 2,250 schools in the United States and 20 foreign countries. As Ms. Pellegrino, the Math Department Chair at Byram Hills, states, “The first official year of Mu Alpha Theta at Byram Hills was the 2005-2006 school year, under the Department Chair (now Deputy Superintendent) Dr. Tim Kaltenecker. I started at Byram Hills during the 2011-2012 school year and have been involved in Mu Alpha Theta ever since.” Over the years, the group has grown to become an instrumental part of the math community here at Byram Hills and has helped to encourage a love for mathematics among Byram students.
The application process for Mu Alpha Theta not only recognizes exceptional ability in mathematics but also emphasizes leadership and community service. The process applicants go through can be broken down into three phases. Ms. Pellegrino explains, “Phase 1 of the selection process is based off grades in core math courses. If students meet the grade requirement (3.8) then students are sent an application (Phase 2) at the start of the school year. They have approximately 3 weeks to fill out and submit the application, which asks for examples in leadership and service. Successful students then move on to the biggest portion, Phase 3, the service points. All candidates must earn 10 service points by March 31 to be admitted into Mu Alpha Theta. Half of the points can be outside service, but at least 5 of the points have to be from a Mu Alpha Theta sponsored activity, such as Puzzle Day, Pi Week, HCC Homework Help, BHHS Homework Help. Successful students are then inducted in April.” Volunteering at math homework help at HCC allows the kids in the middle school to foster an enjoyment in math and to create bonds with high schoolers. Personally, I loved getting to know the kids, helping them with their homework, and witnessing the excitement on their faces when they correctly solved a difficult question.
Aside from HCC extra help, Mu Alpha Theta sponsors activities at the high school to promote engagement in the subject of math. By attending Puzzle Day, helping out with Pi Week decorations or contributing to the Pi Week bakesale, Mu Alpha Theta applicants can earn several points.
When asked about the most rewarding parts of being involved in Mu Alpha Theta, Ms. Pellegrino responds, “I think Puzzle Day is a highlight for the [club]. You see a large group (around 100) students that come in on a Saturday and just enjoy math and problem solving. It is a great atmosphere – music, snacks, pizza, and students are working collaboratively in groups of 2, 3, 4 or 5 on really challenging puzzles. I also love Pi Week, especially when a student who wins the puzzle contest gets to select a charity in which to donate our bake sale proceeds. We have also gotten a lot of really positive feedback from HCC on our Mu students who have helped out at the Math Homework Center.” Overall, Mu Alpha Theta effectively promotes a love for math and learning through various fun activities that members, applicants and community members can all participate in together.