Academic rigor is a trait used often to describe a Brebeuf Jesuit education. And, while students at Brebeuf know this to be true, seeing the fruits of this rigor played out in competition is rare. The student participants of the Catholic Math League have not only used the skills they’ve gained from their challenging mathematics courses in competition – they’ve dominated.

Mathfax is a national math competition that was started in 1997 to help develop test taking abilities in students so they are better prepared for tests and college entrance exams. Math contests are offered through the program for each grade level from third grade through advanced levels of math. Each contest consists of four tests. The contest is further broken down into two categories, the Catholic Math League (for Catholic schools) and Mathfax (for all non-Catholic schools).

Brebeuf has historically been a highly competitive team in the contest, and this year was no exception. As a team, Brebeuf placed 1st in the nation (against all Catholic and non-Catholic schools) for both Algebra II and Geometry, as well as 8th place in the nation for Advanced Math. Individually, Hechen Liu ’23 placed 1st in the nation (including non-Catholic students) for Algebra II. Ronan Laughlin ’22 placed 2nd in the nation for Geometry. Maggie Gonzalez ’22 and Joseph Grabczynski ’22 tied for 3rd place in the nation in Geometry and Jake Fine ’22 placed 7th in Geometry.

We are so proud of the entire Brebeuf Catholic Math League team and can’t wait to see how their success continues into the 2020-2021 school year! We sat down with a few members of the team to talk about their experiences this past school year.

Tell us a bit about the Catholic Math League/Mathfax contest?

It is a contest any student can sign up for in advance. They then show up on a predetermined day and take a test assigned to their math group. The top three scores of that particular group are then sent in and recorded as official scores. The team with the highest score after several different tests is the winner. – Jack Kaufmann ‘21

What made you want to participate in Catholic Math League?

In my middle school days, when I was living in Georgia, I had been a part of the Mathcounts team at my school. It was a lot of fun to do, and I wanted to compete in something similar when I moved to Indiana. I found out about and participated in Catholic Math League my Freshman year. I enjoyed it, and so I continued to do it. – Joseph Grabczynski ‘22

It sounded like a cool opportunity to see how much I actually knew in math, and it looked like something cool to try. – Jack Kaufmann ‘21

The Brebeuf team did exceptionally well this year – placing 1st in the nation in the Geometry and Algebra II and 8th in the nation for Advanced Math, as well as numerous individuals placing highly in the national standings. How did this make you feel when you found out, and what do you contribute to your team’s success?

It felt great from both an individual and team perspective. Finding out that I helped Brebeuf place first in Geometry was an amazing feeling. I am a competitor, so placing 3rd in the Catholic Math League made me feel like the hard work I was placing into my studies was paying off. I was also proud of my friends on the Algebra II, Geometry, and Advanced Math teams for their hard work and success. – Joseph Grabczynski ‘22

I was amazed when I found out how well Brebeuf as a whole had done, but I was not very surprised—Brebeuf has a fantastic math department, and its students are dedicated. Brebeuf students participating in the contest are there to work hard and represent the school well. Having scored well in the contest, I feel like I have succeeded in that representation. – Ronan Laughlin ‘22

Tell us a bit about the preparation that goes into preparing for these contests.

My own preparation was minimal. I went to sleep earlier than usual so I could get up earlier than usual. When I went to take the tests, I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose. I had already done all the studying I needed to do by being in the class, so I just needed to do my best. – Ronan Laughlin ‘22

There isn’t necessarily a lot of preparation to go into these contests, as we don’t know exactly what they are going to test us on each test. The teachers give us an optional practice test before each of the four, which are usually just tests from past years. I always complete these before each competition to refresh various things that I have learned earlier in the year. I also usually look up a lot of formulas right before the test that I haven’t learned yet, just in case I need them. – Maggie Gonzalez ‘22

What have you enjoyed the most about participating in the Catholic Math League?

I enjoyed the feeling of being focused and solving problems during the contest the most; I like working within a time limit because otherwise I will procrastinate. However, I also enjoyed knowing that I can relax in 30 minutes no matter what. – Hechen Liu ‘23

I have enjoyed most overall being able to apply what I learn in class to other math events. What I learn in my geometry class isn’t only important for that class, and I can use it in my other activities. I like being able to use math in a lot of different formats, so I think that has been my favorite part. – Maggie Gonzalez ‘22

Ronan, you placed 2nd in the nation as an individual for Geometry. How did you feel when you heard the news and what do you contribute to your success?

When I heard that I placed second in the nation, I was shocked because I didn’t expect my minimal preparation to put me in a top spot. It’s not that I didn’t expect to do well; I was putting in plenty of effort. I just didn’t expect to do as well as I did, and the only explanation I have is that Brebeuf’s teachers prepared me. – Ronan Laughlin ‘22

Hechen, you placed 1st in the nation as an individual for Algebra II. How did you feel when you heard the news and what do you contribute to your success?

I felt happy for having persisted to participate in all 4 contests and proud to have helped the team. I contribute by making myself focus on the questions themselves and not the results, getting a good night of sleep before the contest, and trying to do the problems correctly in the simplest ways I can think of with a steady pace during the 30 minutes. – Hechen Liu ‘23