Toga Junior Math Club fosters young minds for excellence

May 30, 2018 — by Daniel Bessonov and Patrick Li

The sound of pencil on paper predominated as seventh grader Matthew Song diligently worked away at the problem set in front of him. Surrounded by several other like-minded students, Song and his fifty Redwood Middle School peers sat enthusiastically in SHS math teacher Meghan Pickett’s room, joining together on a Tuesday night to pursue their love for math.

Toga Junior Math Club is a club organized by high school students to assist ambitious, math-minded middle school children in launching their math careers. The club meets every Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and runs from September until March.

The coaches, high school students heavily involved with the high school school’s math club, start off each meeting with a lecture, followed by a session of problem-solving.  Junior Justin Sun, the club liaison, said that this gives the middle school students a chance to both learn new problem-solving techniques and practice mastering them.

“Our open, lecture-based format gives our members the chance to just enjoy doing math,” Sun said. “Although we obviously have a goal of helping students learn new material and improve their problem-solving skills for various contests, we also just want the kids to have a good time solving math problems.”

According to club adviser PJ Yim, the Toga Junior Math Club isn't necessarily a precursor to its high school equivalent; rather, it is simply an opportunity for middle school students to enter the math scene early on.

The club has produced two United States of America Junior Mathematical Olympiad qualifiers this year: eighth-grader Joseph Zhang and seventh-grader Nilay Mishra. The team has also excelled in in the popular math competition “MATHCOUNTS,” placing second at the state competition this past year out of Northern California’s top 30 teams.

Junior Ethan Ko, a past member and current logistics liaison at the club, said that his experiences with the club helped him develop a level of understanding for mathematics that he wouldn’t have been able to achieve on his own.

These experiences paved the way for him to rejoin the club as a high school volunteer in an effort to help teach middle schoolers and “give back” the experiences that past coaches have been able to give him.

“Teaching the middle schoolers and watching them suddenly understand a concept and have their mind blown is one of the most rewarding experiences ever,” Ko said. “It’s been a very fun year teaching these kids, and I can’t wait to watch them compete and look at how much they and their talents have grown.”