If you pop into the Twichell Room on a Thursday during the study hall block, you might find students engaged in a feisty game of Jeopardy, coloring group name tags, drawing on windows, and almost always excitedly engaged in group conversations. At first glance, you might not recognize the common theme: mathematics.
The MathCounts club is not new to Foote, but this year its leaders, Alora Hanson ’26 and Samir Iydroose ’25, were determined to mix things up. Sometimes literally: in an effort to make the club as inclusive as possible, Alora said she will intentionally create groups of students whose paths don’t regularly cross, so they can work together to solve a problem.
“I wanted the MathCounts experience to be more engaging for everyone involved,” she explained. “Sometimes we structure it in a way that combines people who want extra help with people who have a stronger skill set. We want it to be enjoyable for everyone.”
That includes the kinds of activities they choose. Alongside advisors John Hay and Timothy Norman, the leaders devise games, activities, and challenges that focus on more than mere skill-building.
“We’ll explain concepts, and I’ll teach little tricks at the beginning of the club meetings, and if someone has trouble, I’ll help them break it down,” Samir said. At the same time, he clarified, there’s no particular skill set required to participate.
Alora added: “When I’m talking to people who say that they are not good at math, I let them know that MathCounts is a place to make friends and learn new skills, it’s not about what skill level you are at. There are plenty of people around to help you.”
When they make their weekly club announcement at Morning Meeting, Samir and Alora have made the activities so appealing, that often they’ll see more than the regular 18 club members show up.
This Saturday, Feb. 3, members of the MathCounts Club will head to Yale University to compete against middle school students from area public and private schools to vie for a spot at the state competition. Last year’s group finished in ninth place, and Samir and Alora are hopeful that they’ll do even better this year. In addition to the two leaders, Foote students Alice Neitzke, Meg Harper-Mangels, Silvia Gozar-Zimbrean, Ela Kaya, Dar Assaf, Mason Lamprea, Natalie Tolchin, Solly Polak, and Tristan Shahid will be joining the competition in either the competitive or non-competitive tracks at the event.
For Samir, the math opportunities at the school cemented his decision to come to Foote last year. After hearing about the club opportunity at a Morning Meeting during his admissions visit, he was excited to know that there were other students who shared his passion.
“I find math to be really interesting because there is a way to figure out how to solve every problem,” he said. “When I was a new student last year, MathCounts was a great way to get to know people.”
Alora’s interest in math runs deep, too.
She said, “I’ve always found it interesting to challenge myself, and I like that there's a definite answer to a problem. I can build off the topics and skills I've previously learned, and at our club, I can do this with my friends and meet new people.”