Mathletes Host Derivative Decathlon


MacKenzie Schmeltz

On this past Friday afternoon October 29th, the Mathletes hosted their first Derivative Decathlon. This event featured ten equations for which competitors had to solve for the derivative and then plug in the given x value in order to know the room number that held the next question. Of the over two dozen students that took part, the top three finishers were Josh Culver, Sam Thomas, and Elijah Diller. 

Starting in the Black Box, 26 students utilized their calculus skills to figure out the location of the next problem. It was slow moving in the first round, with many students puzzled if they were supposed to go to a negative or fraction room number. Finally leading the charge was Daniel Pries, figuring out the location to be Mr. Mentock’s room. Proceeding onto Mrs. Gergley’s room after round two, Josh Culver found the solution first with Daniel only a step behind. In what was deemed an upset, Daniel was eliminated in round three for an incorrect answer, paving the way for Josh to establish a far lead, sailing onto Mrs. Goralczyk’s room and then Mr. Horvath’s to claim the gold. 

In review of the competition, Josh felt confident in his skills and comments that the derivatives were not difficult to solve for, with the simplification and algebra of each equation being the areas where mistakes were most likely to occur for him. Because of this, he made sure to double and triple check each of his answers before moving on. Josh notes about his victory that, “It feels great to win, especially in a contest that is solely about my favorite branch of mathematics, and the branch that I would most like to teach to others.” He also remarks that while he wasn’t shocked at his first place finish, he did “still feel vindicated in [his] mathematical prowess.”

Other members of the pack were not as lucky, being eliminated along the way while others struggled to even locate room 133. The remaining finalists who survived to the round included Sam Thomas, Elijah Diller, Pitor Nabrzyski, Brendan Gonzales, Josh Frabutt, Brendan Pruitt, Sam Forchetti, Mary Clare Elliot, and Ella Scott. 

Sam Thomas ultimately placed second much to his surprise. He says he was prepared to be eliminated in the first round, and even found himself stumped by one question in a later round. To combat this, he says, “I just decided to guess a number, and it turned out to be right, so luck played a big role in the competition for me.” Overall, to him, it was “difficult but rewarding.” 

Elijah Diller, the third place finisher, shares a similar stance as Sam in that he was surprised to place, especially with all the academic talent he was up against. He notes that the algebraic manipulation involved was fairly easy, and “if you knew your derivative rules, you were then more than prepared to do well.” Additionally, Pitor Nabrzyski was the only other finalist who successfully completed the final round. 

Mr. Goodrich, the moderator of Mathletes and organizer of the event, advised that in any calculus problem, including the DD, “Never forget the product, quotient, or chain rule.” He would also like to extend a special thanks to the student helpers, Martha Cleary, Katie Lavelle, Cat Suarez, Thomas Belcher, and Anderson Davis, as well as all the proctors and supervisors. Congratulations to the finalists, and to all those courageous enough to take on the Derivative Decathlon.