Math club and team transform into Mu Alpha Theta

Mu Alpha Theta was founded in 1957 to

Mu Alpha Theta was founded in 1957 to “[promote] scholarship in mathematics and establishing math as an integral part of high school and junior college education.” Photo courtesy of Sydney Cook.

Decatur High School’s math club and team are being revamped into the inaugural chapter of Mu Alpha Theta (MAT).

Mu Alpha Theta is a national mathematics honor society founded in the U.S. with high school and college chapters across the nation and globe.

Math teacher Rachel Seasholtz, the sponsor of MAT and the former math club, most recently heard about Mu Alpha Theta at a professional learning experience in October 2018 where a teacher spoke about how MAT helped get kids more involved in the classroom.

Math club and team had been struggling with attendance because students were involved in so many activities and because competition problems were difficult, Seasholtz and MAT primary organizer senior Sydney Cook said. Seasholtz saw Mu Alpha Theta as an opportunity to address those problems.

“I thought, ‘This could be a really good idea for how we can transition math club to have a better reapings of students who are heavily involved and to feel like there is a component of being accepting of and helping all students who may not be necessarily as gifted in math,” Seasholtz said.

Cook became the leader of math club “kind of by default,” Seasholtz said, as she was one of the few juniors in the club who showed up consistently, Cook said. When Seasholtz told Cook about her idea to transition the math club to MAT, Cook was “really excited.”

“Immediately as she suggested it and people started calling me the next year’s president, I was thinking about plans for what we could do,” Cook said.

Seasholtz and Cook wanted MAT to be more than just an honor society. The honor society requirements limit freshmen and sophomores’ ability to join as official members, but Seasholtz and Cook plan for MAT to be open to everyone.

“I think if we push it as an honor society primarily, then that sacrifices the ability to draw people who don’t qualify for that in particular or don’t think that they could meet the attendance requirements, because it may just scare people off,” Cook said.

A large portion of MAT will be math-related activities that all members can participate in. Some of these activities include watching math lessons about concepts not taught in high school and being a tutor at the math tutoring center opening after fall break, according to Seasholtz.

“Going to the meetings where we do activities is supposed to be open to everyone—any skill level—as long as you’re interested,” Cook said.

In the search for MAT officers, students were invited to an officer interest meeting on Aug. 16 based on recommendations from their peers and former math teachers. After the meeting, they could apply to be an officer.

Cook, Seasholtz and math teacher and MAT sponsor Paul Johnson reviewed the officer applications. Cook said they looked for students with a strong interest in math and creative ideas for MAT activities. In the end, they chose seniors Abby Duda, Jared Witz, Zach Slaton and sophomore Lydia Witter to be officers.

As soon as the leadership board was filled, Seasholtz pulled back on her involvement and let the officers take over.

“I have given them such control of what they wanna do,” Seasholtz said. “I think it matters that this is a student-run thing, not a teacher-run thing, because that’s how it’s gonna have longevity.”

For Cook, the goal is to keep MAT inclusive and allow anyone to participate.

“MAT is supposed to be a place where people can come for a collaborative and fun environment to learn and talk about math,” Cook said. 

The MAT interest meeting is at 7:45 a.m. on Sept. 13, 2019 in the Learning Commons.