Release Date: 
Monday, February 26, 2024

HawkStrong: HFC Mathematics Club takes regional and national accolades

Photo of the HFC Mathematics Club.
From L-R: HFC math instructor Michael Zalzali, HFC math instructor Michael Sin, Abigail Ghiurau, Reem Helmy, Jace Bauman-Buttolo, Ali Seblini, and Hadi Soweidan represent the HFC Mathematics Club. The club won regional and national accolades in the first round of the AMATYC national competition. Not pictured: Soliman Touelh and Tiani Itani.

Last year, Henry Ford Early College student Hadi Soweidan (pronounced “So-way-dan”) resurrected HFC’s Mathematics Club, becoming the president. This year, he helped it grow even more.

In the Fall 2023 semester, a team from the Mathematics Club – comprising Soweidan, Jace Bauman-Buttolo, Abigail Ghiurau, Ali Seblini, Soliman Touelh, Tiani Itani, and Reem Helmy – participated in the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC) Student Mathematics League, a national competition with many competing two-year colleges from the United States and some from Mexico and Canada.

At this competition,HFC placed first in Michigan, first in the Midwest, and fifth in the nation. This was only the first round, where they scored 110.5 points. The second round will be Friday, March 1.

“I’m incredibly proud of my team,” said Soweidan. “It was a lot of hard work to get there. I remember the day of the exam. Jace and I were tutoring students in the lobby of the Health Sciences Education Center (Building G on the main campus) right up to the start of the test.”

Out-of-the-box thinking is required to solve 20 complex math problems

The competition is an exam, allowing one hour to solve 20 math problems. Many are extremely difficult, requiring out-of-the-box thinking and efficient use of a graphing calculator to solve them in the allotted time.

This was Ghiurau’s first semester participating in the AMATYC national competition.

“Because of our success from last semester, along with seeing the dedication and passion from the students in our Mathematics Club and the professors mentoring us, I am motivated to continue participating in the AMATYC competition and becoming better as a group,” she said.

At the HFC Board of Trustees meeting in January, Soweidan made a presentation to College leaders, including President Russ Kavalhuna. He chronicled the club’s history and recent successes.

“There weren’t many members at first, but we put a lot of effort into promoting the club,” he said. “I created flyers to advertise the team, and (HFC math instructors Michael Sin and Michael Zalzali) had their own flyers to spread throughout the math department. We set up activities in many events around campus and did class visits, where the professors, the officers, and I went to individual classrooms to present and promote our team.”

The Zalzali Method

Sin and Zalzali held meetings every Friday to work on math problems that had a high probability of being on the test.

“Since there are only three minutes on average per question, if you see a question you had practice with, you can solve that question faster and use that time for the next question,” said Soweidan. “Having these sessions was good for both catching up new students and honing the skills of returning students. The officers and I also hosted additional sessions for those who wanted extra help or who couldn’t make it to the Friday meetings. The professors would communicate with us around the clock, create handouts for the Friday sessions, and meet with students individually to help boost skills. Together we worked to maximize the amount of opportunities for students to prepare for the national competition.”

Soweidan spoke about how Zalzali taught an applicable technique called the Birthday Method. For problems with variables in the question and answer, you can substitute any number for that variable and simplify things without changing anything about the problem. Zalzali showed club members that when using a random number from a student’s birthday, any number can be substituted and it would still work.

“The premise is quite simple,” said Soweidan. “Instead of calling it the Birthday Method, I prefer to call it the Zalzali Method to pay respect to the one who taught it.”

Zalzali is impressed with what Soweidan achieved during his time as president.

“Hadi played an important role in the Mathematics Club as president and in the Student Math League competition,” said Zalzali. “He is a self-achiever, team player, and leader.”

Added Sin: “Hadi is always energetic and passionate about his work. His positive energy impacts people around him. His contribution to the Math Club is also invaluable. He spends lots of time and effort to recruit club members, provide support for new members, and motivate team members. I am proud of him and his achievements!”

“We were just warming up”

Bauman-Buttolo joined the Mathematics Club in the Winter 2023 semester. This was his second time participating in the AMATYC national competition.

“It's very exciting to have done so well this past semester,” said Bauman-Buttolo. “I hope to do even better during the Winter 2024 semester!”

Soweidan can’t wait for the next round March 1. He and his teammates have been studying harder than ever.

“We were just warming up last semester,” he said. “We hope to be more aggressive with the questions. We’ve got nothing to lose, and we’ll go all in. We have more of an incentive to shoot for an even higher score than what we’ve already done. With this team, I wholeheartedly believe we can go even further!”

Soweidan will graduate this spring from the HFEC, earning his high school diploma and his associate degree in pre-engineering. He will transfer the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the fall to complete his bachelor’s degree in robotics.

He is proud of the legacy he’s created.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to have been able to bring this club back,” said Soweidan. “With hard work and dedication, I was able to reinvigorate the spirit of mathematics on the HFC campus. I want to keep it going after I’m gone. I want to create a strong foundation o leave a lasting legacy behind.”

Related contnt: A brief history of AMATYC