By Joe Anuta
Christ the King High School is No. 1 in the state, and this time it has nothing to do with basketball.
Students in the school’s math club rank first against 25 religious schools and 13th out of 208 schools in the New York Math League, an organization that tests the problem-solving skills ï»¿of high school students across the state.
“A lot of people associate Christ the King with sports,” said Principal Peter Mannarino. “But they don’t realize what else is going on in the school.”
The New York Math League releases the rankings on a monthly basis, although there are six competitions throughout the year.
The school has enjoyed success on the Cartesian coordinate plane as well as the football field, thanks to the guidance of Richard Hartman, who moderates the club.
“Each week I give them problems that had been given by the Math League in the last 20 or 30 years, so they feel prepared and feel good about competing with other schools,” Hartman said. “Plus, I give them candy.”
But sugary snacks alone cannot account for the club’s impressive membership of 50 to 60 students from all four grades of the school.
The creativity required to solve the mathematical puzzles draws the students to the club, according to Hartman. The problems for the competition are different than the rote exercises assigned during normal math class.
“If you can’t think of a creative way of doing it, there’s no way you’re going to finish it — even in a day,” he said.
There are six increasingly difficult questions on the monthly test and competitors have half an hour to solve all of them.
A sample question asked: “For what prime ‘p’ is 2003p + the square of an integer?”
But one student on the team has no problem with time constraints.
Christina Marino is ranked 13th in the state out of all Math League participants and enjoys pitting her brain against her peers.
“I would like to be in the top 10,” Marino said. “The math I study in school is more formulas and definite rules, but the math in the club is more about logical and creative thinking.”
Marino has a scholarship to attend Hofstra Law School, where she plans to study forensic science.
“I liked science for all four years at Christ the King,” she said. “And I’m obsessed with ‘CSI.’”
Participating in the math club can often help students get into to better colleges, which is another reason the membership is so high, according to Hartman.
But aside from her graduation plans, Marino also said she enjoyed the competition.
And it is not easy.
Christ the King High School competes with science powerhouses like the Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School and Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan.
The entire six-test competition runs until March.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.