[SCHILLING SCOOP] Ready, set, solve. The teachers that make Math Team possible


Kevin Chen

WATCH AND LEARN. Math team coach Dan O’Laughlin shows the team easier and quicker ways to solve difficult math questions.

Math team is arguably one of the strongest, longest-lasting teams in the school, thanks to the work of Bill Boulger, math teacher and math team advisor until his retirement in 2018. In his absence, Dan O’Loughlin has stepped up to continue the legacy of the team. O’Loughlin holds the Schilling Family Endowed Chair in mathematics and teaches Honors Topics classes and statistics.
“When I first came, I was the assistant, so that was five or six years, but I was also the representative of our division to the state board. So I had a leadership role in our division, which is other Minneapolis and St. Paul private schools,” O’Loughlin said.
With all this experience, O’Loughlin was able to transition to the role of math team coach gracefully, only needing to do more organizational work. Since O’Loughlin focused on the administrative parts of the math team during his time as the assistant, mainly on the math team website, he needed to take charge of organizing the math team practices and directly coaching the students, something Boulger did before retirement. But this transition eventually led to another: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID part is a little tricky because the way we do the competitions has changed a little bit because now we do all the problems online, the answers are all integers, and students type in their answers after they do work on paper,” O’Loughlin said.
However, in spite of this difficulty, the math team may have been able to gain a slight advantage.
“It’s been interesting. In the last two years, we’ve actually had higher participation, and I can’t really tell if the higher participation is because we’re doing everything at school rather than traveling, or it’s just that students are more interested,” O’Loughlin said.
And this higher participation might be the reason for the math team’s success during this time. In these two years, the math team tied for 2nd in the state and got 3rd place during the regular season, and the trend may continue if participation continues to rise. The only remaining question for the math team revolves around its future.
“Having never been involved in math team before, I sort of had no idea what to expect, and so far it’s so fun to see people try hard problems and compare their solutions,” math teacher McKenna Shaw said.
Shaw is one of the two new assistants for the math team. Although still new to the team, Shaw has been regularly going to the practices, beginning with trying the problems and helping students during practices.
“My plan is just to keep hanging out and see how I can help,” Shaw said.