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North math team places in nationals

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Four Columbus North High School math students will split $7,500 in scholarship money they won by placing fourth in a national competition.

The team — seniors Tushar Chandra, Chris Von Hoene, Brian Pierson and Byron Zaharako — presented a 20-page paper in New York City on Monday at the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge to a panel of Ph.D.-level mathematicians.

Their paper was chosen as one of six finalists from 1,152 papers submitted from schools across the country.

Columbus North was one of four schools in the country to have two teams recognized in the contest this year. Kyung Kim, Radhika Paliwal, Gabriela Peters, Mimansa Verma and Kevin Zhang received an honorable mention and $1,000 in scholarship money.

Students had 14 hours to research, analyze, write and submit a paper that discussed the “Lunch Crunch” — a problem that asked whether school lunches can be nutritious, delicious and affordable.

They discovered the answer — yes, it is possible — using several complex applied mathematics equations.

The competition, organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and sponsored by the Moody’s Foundation, started in 2006 and was limited to New York City high school students. It has grown to include 45 states.

After delivering their PowerPoint presentation, the team members were questioned by the panel about whether they considered incorporating a tasty dessert to increase student satisfaction and whether they gave any thought to vegetarians or vegans.

Although the team did not win the top prize of $20,000 in scholarship money, coach and math teacher Mike Spock said he was proud of the four team members.

“We’ve already won by getting to finals,” he said before the team departed for the city Sunday. “Whatever they do, it has already been amazing.”

The team members described the contest as “awesome.” They said the one long day of hard work and deadline pressure will prepare them for college.

They also got an all-expenses paid trip to New York out of the deal.

Spock said it was a good opportunity for the students to show what they’ve learned in their four years at North.

Rather than working on an “academic” problem, the student took a shot at a real-world issue and came up with a real-world solution.

“They got to apply the things they learn in math class, statistics and computer science to a real problem,” he said. “These are pretty elite students.”

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