Nashua South Math Team continues to dominate

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart Nashua High School South senior Ankita Devasia solves a problem on the whiteboard at a meeting with the math team during E-block in Kellie Gabriel’s classroom. The group, comprised on freshmen through seniors, meets to practice their math skills in preparation for competitions. Devasia has been involved with the math team since she was in eighth grade, and is now in her fifth year with the team.

NASHUA – When Nashua High School South teacher Kellie Gabriel began coaching the school’s math team several years ago, it was a challenge to find 10 students willing to participate.

To say interest has multiplied may by an understatement, as Gabriel now finds herself with as many as 90 students eager to prove their math skills.

“The interest on the team is absolutely phenomenal,” Gabriel said. “The students truly enjoy mathematics.”

For the last 10 years, the team has been the reigning champions in their league’s division. The members participate in the Southern Mathematics Association of Senior High Schools Math League competitions, which take place once per month.

Gabriel, head of South’s math department, is in her 14th year coaching the team. She said the league is comprised of 20 schools from the area, but the division consists mainly of larger schools.

Aside from participating in the Southern Mathematics Association of Senior High Schools Math League, Gabriel said the team also participates in local competition in the New England Math League. During the school’s E-Block, students who have not made the travel team can still participate in the competition. Gabriel said she sends the scores to problems online.

They also have participated in the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s meet for the last seven years. For this meet, about 90 schools with teams of four participate. In the past years, South’s team has placed in the top 10 and 15. Gabriel said one year, they even came in third place.

“We have some good success,” Gabriel said. “We are competing with ourselves each meet just to do better. The students are very competitive.”

Gabriel said the key to the students’ success has really been the fact that it is mostly a student-run group.

Gabriel said she has two co-captains who create challenging and rigorous math problems. She attributes the team’s ongoing momentum to being pushed by their peers.

It all started 10 years ago when a team captain, Alex Chen, now a Harvard Law School graduate, asked if he could run the practices, make the problems and run the team’s practice competitions.

“When he took the rein and started going with it, the momentum started, the competitiveness within the students increased and I just watched this happen, the students taking charge,” Gabriel said.

The effects from this rippled.

“Now, the younger kids look to those captains in so many different ways. It’s a beautiful thing to watch,” Gabriel said. “The momentum is just non-stop and it’s continuing. We have got some freshmen that have started this year – they are phenomenal. And now younger students know about the team, which is really exciting.”