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Don Davis’ teenage math stars repeat as national champs

The national champion Lehigh Valley Fire, one of four teams coached by Don Davis (third from right, upper row), spend most of their Sundays in the spring drilling for the ARML competition.

A high school mathematics team led by Don Davis, professor of mathematics, brought home a national championship on June 5, its second consecutive national title and third since 2005.

The team, dubbed “Lehigh Valley Fire,” bested 122 teams from across the nation in the American Regions Mathematics League (ARML) competition. Fire scored 204 points, significantly higher than the 192 and 190 by the second- and third-place teams from Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition, Davis and his assistant coach, Ken Monks, received the 2010 Samuel Greitzer Distinguished Coach Award, which is given annually by ARML. Monks, who is one of Davis’ former students, received his Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1989 and is now a mathematics professor at the University of Scranton.

The ARML brings together the nation’s top mathematics students to compete and sharpen their math skills. Each year the competition is held concurrently at Penn State, the University of Iowa, the University of Georgia and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, with students from across the country competing as individuals and in teams.

Davis fielded four 15-member teams in this year’s competition – Fire, Ice, Lightning and Thunder – comprised of high school and middle school students from the Lehigh Valley, greater Philadelphia, the Poconos, and parts of New Jersey. The winning team included two juniors from Bethlehem’s Liberty High School, Ben Kraft and Shonak Patel.

More than 250 protégés in 17 years

When Davis formed the ARML team in 1993, it consisted of students from only the Lehigh Valley. Today, it is still called the Lehigh Valley team, but it draws students from a much broader area. His tutelage has provided more than 250 students with the opportunity to develop their skills in mathematics, problem-solving and teamwork.

“It is extremely gratifying to work with such talented, enthusiastic students, who are eager to spend almost every Sunday during the spring working on math problems with other like-minded students,” says Davis. “They form bonds with one another that often last beyond their high school years.”

Many of Davis’s former team members have gone on to study at Ivy League schools or at MIT, or have chosen to attend Lehigh to work with Davis and the department of mathematics. Each year, several alumni of the Lehigh Valley ARML team return to the ARML competition to travel with the team and serve as officials.

The principal sponsor of the Lehigh Valley teams is Paul Martino ‘95.


Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Friday, June 11, 2010

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