Pi Day provides infinite delight

March 15, 2024

Pi Day at CA was a whirlwind of excitement and mathematical fun! Middle Schoolers embarked on a Pi-themed adventure across eight stations, aiming to complete six for a coveted Pi Day prize. In the Upper School, the CMS was abuzz with Pi-themed activities, including a memory test for reciting Pi digits (hats off to winner Anna Benjamin, who recited a mind-blowing 200 digits!). Seventh and 8th graders will continue the Pi Day fun with a Kahoot Showdown during tomorrow’s advisory. It was a day filled with laughter, learning, and plenty of pie – a true celebration of the infinite wonder of Pi!

Written by Jack Swingle, Digital Media Specialist


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MATHCOUNTS team brings home championship, heads to states

February 15, 2024

This past weekend, 12 of our 40 Middle School MATHCOUNTS team members competed in the 2024 MATHCOUNTS North Carolina Chapter Competition. The field was stacked with worthy competitors, but our Chargers brought home the top prize! With the win, our MS MATHCOUNTS team is headed to the State Championship to defend their title! Be sure to congratulate the following students if you see them around campus:

Frank He, ‘28
Mallen Jayasooriya, ‘29
Yuna Kim, ‘30
Aiden Lu, ‘28
Derek Qi, ‘28
Ved Vainateya, ‘28
Brandon Wang, ‘28
Andrea Ye, ‘28
Max Ye, ‘29
Isabel Yun, ‘28
Amy Zheng, ‘29
Jayden Zhu, ‘29

Written by Jack Swingle

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Stats and Storytelling

February 10, 2021

Some of the newest, most eye-catching student art at CA isn’t in Berger Hall; it’s in a math classroom (no, that’s not a typo).

The windows of classroom 128 in the Center for Math and Science—the last classroom in the math wing—are lined with transparent vinyl “stained-glass” suncatchers. When struck by sunlight, colorful railroad cars, peacocks, butterflies, lightning bolts, food pyramids, and abstract hearts throw their colors around the room to magical effect.
Make no mistake—these aren’t just eye- (and sun-) catching artwork. Produced by Upper School Statculus students, they are the latest student-generated data visualizations to grace the Center for Math and Science—every element a deliberate choice to draw the viewer in, to convey a compelling story behind the numbers.

Led by Upper School math department chair Craig Lazarski, Upper School math teacher Kristi Ramey, and art and design teacher Cayce Lee, Statculus offers a deep dive into the connection between calculus and statistics, with a hefty dose of visual arts mixed in. In class, students engage with real-world data to conduct sophisticated analysis, tease out important conclusions, and depict them in compelling and beautiful visualizations.

Those beautiful suncatchers? They reflect student learning in sampling methodologies and complex data analysis. Each represents an opinion data set collected from peers and faculty and parsed using analytical tools that students learned from class. In an array of carefully calculated designs, they offer insights into our community’s preferences—from favorite colors to superhero movies, Hogwarts’ houses sorting to family relationships, sleep habits to dietary choices, and more.

“Your first impression may not be that these are numbers that you’re looking at, but once you think about what you’re seeing, it becomes what Kristi calls a ‘gut-punch’; it communicates something important in a powerful way,” says Lazarski.

Point of Origin

And that, of course, is precisely the point. The ability to work with, interrogate, and powerfully communicate data is particularly timely in a world awash in statistical claims.
“The misunderstanding that people can ‘lie’ with statistics is one of the key reasons everyone should take statistics,” offers Ramey. “It’s not that the statistics are lying; it’s that you don’t know how to interpret the data or that the data is being visually misrepresented.”

Created by Ramey and Lazarski as the product of a 2018 Curriculum Innovation Grant, Statculus was conceived to expand CA’s statistics offerings to better meet the needs of our academically diverse student body.

“We had a wide spectrum of skill levels in a single statistics class—from students who were taking collegiate-level Calculus 3 to those who had recently completed Algebra 2,” explains Lazarski. “Rather than repeat material for students who had already taken calculus and try to bring students who hadn’t up to speed, we decided to offer a more specialized statistics for those students already versed in calculus.”

The result—Statculus—is something akin to a graduate-level statistics course, uniquely tailored to their students’ skills. (It doesn’t hurt that both Ramey and Lazarski are currently pursuing graduate degrees in statistics at NC State University and regularly incorporate material they encounter into their classes).

However, they are quick to point out that mathematics is only one part of the statistics puzzle; communication of the data is equally important. “Statistics is all about communicating. It’s what distinguishes statistics from its calculus lineage,” explains Ramey.

Getting an eye for visual learning

That’s why, in recent years, Statculus has evolved to include a significant and crucial data visualization component, courtesy of a collaboration with Upper School art and design teacher Cayce Lee, and facilitated by yet another professional development opportunity—this one from the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA).

The NCMA’s Fellowship for Collaborative Teaching pairs educators from various fields of study who are committed to using art to engage students in new ideas and deepen their problem-solving and critical thinking skills. On hearing of the opportunity, Lee immediately thought of partnering with Ramey, who had long expressed an interest in combining art and math in the classroom.

Selected for the fellowship, in the summer of 2019, Lee and Ramey joined ten fellow educators from across the state in a series of intensive seminars and workshops to design curricula that combined art with other disciplines in meaningful and engaging ways. As the first math-focused pair selected for the fellowship, Lee and Ramey broke new ground for the NCMA program, then in its fourth year, according to Jill Taylor, Director of School and Teacher Programs at NCMA.


For both, it was an eye-opening and fruitful experience, one that underscored not only the vital role of data visualization in statistics, but the importance of visual arts—of color and composition and narrative—in data visualization.

“With artful data visualization, statistics can achieve an emotional response from the audience,” offers Ramey. “Data visualization allows us to provide a point of view along with communicating data. Instead of ‘here’s a pie chart,’ it’s ‘oh my gosh, that was really impactful, and I now see it differently.’”

Clarity of vision

With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting students’ opportunities to work together in large groups, Lazarski, Lee, and Ramey had to rethink the scope, scale, and purpose of this year’s Statculus data visualization project.

“Last year, we focused on developing students’ communication skills, and their grade was mostly derived from their presentations. Virtual and hybrid learning made that next to impossible, so this year, we leveraged a partner art project to provide that opportunity for them,” says Lazarski.

As the suncatcher project was conceived, students were granted control over the data they would collect and analyze, as well as the designs that their suncatcher would use to visualize their results. Students collected and analyzed the data outside of class and then used weekly Flex Days to collaborate and develop their data-driven artwork.

To prepare, Lee introduced students to artworks that incorporated data in thought-provoking ways, such as Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta’s light-painted series on sea-level rise, Mike Knuepfel’s sculptural interpretation of keyboard letter usage, and Blake Fall-Conrony’s Minimum Wage Machine, which provides a tangible sense of how much work is required to earn so little.

It had an impact.

“Usually, when we ask students to take data and do something more with it, what results is a bigger bar graph,” smiles Lazarski. “But our students, inspired by what Cayce had shared, really ran with the suncatcher project. They put careful consideration into the questions they would ask and the best way to produce them as impactful visuals.”

“I have always thought that math is beautiful, but I was excited to present it beautifully!” reflects Shannon Jenkins ’21. “I think my favorite part of the project may have been measuring out the angles that my partner, Sanjana Chillarege, and I used. We had to constantly adapt our methods to make sure that our proportions were accurate.”

“When we first were assigned the project, I was a little overwhelmed—I had no idea how to approach it,” says Samantha Lattanze ’21. “Working through the project step-by-step helped me enjoy the process and provided me with a new lens on math.”

For the teachers, too, it was a rewarding experience. “It’s been fantastic to see students in a different context than the art studio,” offers Lee. “Getting to revisit a key lesson I teach during the ninth-grade art and design class—that visual communication is the most universal form of communication—with real-world applications is particularly rewarding.”

Beyond the classroom

And it is perhaps that real-world application that best prepares Statculus students for what comes next—helping them to better grasp the material by getting truly-hands on, encouraging them to delve into areas of knowledge that they might not have sought to explore, all while honing communications skills that will serve them long after their time at CA.

“Almost every field is about collecting information and analyzing it in today’s world,” says Ramey. “Either you’ll have to interpret data analytics or interpret data yourself. Those communication skills are key in a world increasingly driven by data analysis.”

Lazarski agrees, “Every year, I get emails from young alumni who say, ‘I’m so glad that I took statistics at CA; I use it so much in college, and I wouldn’t have gotten so far without taking it in high school.’”

Across campus, CA students are taking note of the increased visibility of statistics thanks to the installation of Statculus students’ data visualization pieces. “Students in other classes have been intrigued by the suncatchers,” says Lazarski.

“After taking part in the surveys, they have been fascinated by how the results were presented and the notion that meaningful data could be visualized in a non-traditional way. And that you can have fun and make an impact in the process.”

Data Art

This year’s sun catcher project is not the first data visualization project to adorn the Center for Math and Science. Through Lee and Ramey’s NCMA fellowship, last year’s Statculus students were invited to visit the North Carolina Museum of Art and leverage the museum’s collection as data points for a data visualization project.


Breaking into teams, students analyzed the museum’s vast collections based on artists’ gender, nationality, media used, and composition. With data sets in hand, and in consultation with RTI researcher and data visualization expert Simon King via Zoom (before it was the cornerstone of meetings in 2020), students worked with Lazarski, Lee, and Ramey to design an art installation that would shed light on the strengths and shortcomings of the museum’s holdings while engaging viewers to learn more.

Inspired by Florence Nightingale’s pioneering data visualization work, Diagrams of the Causes of Mortality, which used a coxcomb—a more sophisticated form of a pie chart in which the slices are subdivided and vary in radius in proportion to the data set—and utilizing the cutting-edge tools of the CMS Makerspace and know-how of design, programming, and robotics teacher Betsy MacDonald, the students created three-dimensional coxcomb spheres that are suspended in the Center for Math and Science’s atrium lobby.

Each sphere—crafted from a Wiffle ball, wedges of plexiglass, and transparent vinyl appliques—is mounted on spindles that allow them to rotate. Putting the data in motion seeks to engage viewers, allowing them to see the relationships between the complex layers of data in greater detail.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

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CA teams get with the (computer) program

January 14, 2021

After the first of four contests in the American Computer Science League (ACSL) Programming contest, Cary Academy’s student-led teams rank at the top of the leader boards, having scored 30/30 and 29/30, against some of the best programming teams in the U.S., Canada, Croatia, and Romania.  

The written section of the contest consisted of five questions in 45 minutes involving logic and discrete mathematics that relate to how computers analyze information. The programing section involved reading a program statement and specifications in order to write a program within 72 hours to turn five inputs into five output, following the given rules and requirements. 

The Middle School’s junior team scored 30/30 and the Upper School’s intermediate team scored 29/30. It’s hard to do much better than that!

Advised by Mr. Jon Noland in the Upper School and Mrs. Leslie Williams in the Middle School, the students practiced with both past programs and written questions during student-led club time and on their own in order to prepare for the contest. 

CA’s teams will compete in three more regular-season contests, before the All-Star Contest in May 2021.

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

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John Noland, mathematics coach

Faculty Reflections

Never by the Numbers

September 14, 2020

When the north carolina council of teachers of mathematics awarded john noland the 2019 state math contest coach’s award, no one was surprised–except, maybe, john noland. Social media posts announcing the award were flooded with dozens of comments and well wishes from students, parents, alumni, and colleagues alike.

It’s a good bet that if you ask most people what their favorite subject in high school was, few will say “math.” For many, high school math was something to survive, an abstract concept typified by memorization and regurgitation and absent a link to the world beyond the classroom. However, no one who has learned math with Noland, during his 12 years at Cary Academy, would share that opinion.

The son of an environmental engineer and an accountant, math was always present in Noland’s life, its impact on the world around him apparent. His father’s work illustrated the importance of data collection and developing predictive models, while his mother’s fluency with finances showed him the relevance of math to everyday life. An avid chess and board game player, he saw mathematical influence in the games he played every day.

Ironically, though, Noland didn’t see a future in math for himself. When he began work on his undergraduate degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Noland felt the need to capitalize upon his parents’ investment in his education. Concerned that a career in math might not be lucrative, he pursued an interest in computer programming and embarked on a computer science degree.

He soon realized, however, that the program’s heavy emphasis on electrical engineering—something he didn’t love—meant that he would be “blowing a lot of things up, and not in a good way.” In the end, he returned to math, realizing that the lifelong pursuit of his passion was value enough.


An unexpected value

It wasn’t until grad school at the University of New Hampshire that Noland found his true calling, while working as a teaching assistant in night school classes for adults. Though not the advanced multivariable subject matter that typically interested him, working with this group stirred a passion for teaching—and for making a tangible impact on his student’ lives.

His greatest enjoyment came from removing the discouraging stigmas and anxieties that students often encounter if they struggle with a math course.

“Many of my students didn’t think they were good at math,” explains Noland. “I realized that if I could help them overcome that— if I could help them to believe in themselves— it could open so many doors and make a real difference in their lives.” He adds, “That’s what keeps me going. It is what I still try to do in every class with my students at CA.”

Noland quickly found that rote memorization, while perhaps leading to better test scores, didn’t necessarily lead to true understanding. Instead, he found the key to helping students succeed was to relate math back to real life, to things that people could picture being useful.

“Anyone can learn rules, but to understand why and how math is useful in day-to-day life is the key to ‘getting it.’” A prime example plays out in Noland’s Calculus II class, where he challenges students to model the impact of various retirement savings strategies, teaching real-world financial literacy alongside the value of scenario modeling.

“What really excites me is showing how to use math to model something that students might not understand. The process of using math as a language to interpret what’s going on in the world around you—it is really powerful.”

Harmonic Progression

When Noland arrived at CA in 2008, after teaching in Wake County Public Schools for a decade, he focused on teaching that skillset—using math to decode the world and solve problems—to boost CA’s extracurricular math competition and chess club programs. “The tools were here; it just needed better utilization,” he offers.

An avid player, Noland sees chess as a way to teach both short-term problem solving and how to develop longer-term strategies for success. His successful opening gambit for improving CA’s chess club—which possessed talent but lacked focus—was to encourage more student participation in competitions and recording their moves to analyze later, collaboratively.

By shifting the math competition program to a formal class held during the school day, Noland reduced conflicts with other extracurricular competitions, such as debate. He created a space for students interested in problem solving to grow their skills and acumen, via games and collaboration.

Whether teaching advanced math, chess, or computer programming, Noland’s game-centric approach underscores his core teaching philosophy. “I think the more students can view hard math problems as something like a hard puzzle to solve, the more easily they are able to find a level of challenge where it feels fun to push themselves,” explains Noland.

“When you enjoy something and you’re willing to do it, it’s amazing how much you can grow and accomplish. If something feels like a chore, no matter how smart you are, it’s really tough to get it done.”

Games aren’t everything, though, and Noland is constantly refining his approach to meet students where they are. He recalls that his favorite Middle School math teacher’s game-centric approach meant that students like him, who exceled at quick response games, received more attention than his peers.

“I saw students—often the more thoughtful kids—get discouraged when they were left behind by rapid-fire teaching. It made me love math, but it also made me think critically about how we teach it. I realized that perspective really matters.

“No matter how well you think you’ve explained something, you have to understand that students don’t see things the way teachers do. Communication has to be both ways. My students have definitely helped me see problems and solutions in different—sometimes better—ways.”

Noland’s 2017 Discovery Term class, Math in the World Around Us, showed how math is useful in solving everyday problems, including escape rooms.

Multiplicative Identity

Noland’s time at CA has been defined by collaborative learning opportunities. He cherishes learning new math skills and teaching insights at the annual Teaching Contemporary Mathematics conference. Team teaching Calculus I and II alongside his US math colleagues, Craig Lazarski, Kristi Ramey, and Shelton Shepherd provides him new perspectives. Co-teaching advanced computer programming with CA seniors helps him rethink the classroom experience—offering opportunities to even learn from his students to improve his understanding of machine learning.

Across all his endeavors, Noland is committed to creating personal, flexible, and relevant learning opportunities for his students. The innovative Advanced Calculus III course that Noland pioneered at CA and co-teaches with North Carolina State University faculty is just one such example.

In Calculus III, CA students pursue collegiate level mathematics while benefitting from the hands-on attention found in a high school classroom. “It helps divert some of the difficult collegiate experiences to a place where students have support, rather than facing them on their own,” explains Noland.

And that student support is crucial to Noland. He credits his children, Jack ’21 and Emma (a 9th grader at Enloe High School) with developing his empathy for the stress and workload that Upper School students sometimes carry across classes. For Noland, modeling understanding is as important as meeting goals: “I try to balance flexibility and accountability; sometimes life intrudes. It’s more important that they get to the point of learning the lesson, even if means missing a deadline or metric.”

Mathematics aside, what does Noland most hope his students take away from his classes? Resiliency, perseverance, and an enduring belief in themselves.

“Learning how to learn, how to change your perspective, how to persevere, focusing on what you want to achieve, even if it takes patience, learning how to face and rise to challenges—those are game-changers,” smiles Noland. “I want them to remember that someone encouraged them to keep going and believed in them, even if they didn’t think they would succeed—that’s what teaching is all about.”

Written by Dan Smith, Digital Content Producer and Social Media Manager

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Ye (’24) places 10th

May 7, 2018

At the State Algebra 1 Math Contest held at UNC Greensboro on Thursday May 3, Eric Ye (’24), middle of back row in blue/grey hoodie, earned 10th place in NC and a trophy for his performance. 

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CA math team finishes top ranked in state

April 11, 2018

CA finished as the 6th place team in the Math League Press’s Math League contests in our 23-state region, and is the top-ranked school in NC.

There are six rounds of the contest between October and April.

Three students received individual recognition for their cumulative scores on the six contests:

Vincent Wang (’18) — 9th place in our region

Thomas Hoffmann (’18) — 21st place in our region

Chelsea Fang (’18) — 39th place in our region

Other students who placed among the Top 5 on at least one of the contests:

Abby Geigerman (’19), Rishi Goswami (’20), Paul Ibrahim (’21), Robert Schellenberger (’18), Viraj Shah (’19), Colin Zhu (’20)

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Students excel at regional math contest

March 26, 2018

At the State Regional Mathematics Contest at Wake Technical Community College, four teams of CA middle and upper schoolers competed against many of the top mathematics students in Wake County, and likely in all of the state. Roughly 35 schools participated in this meet.

Five students earned individual medals for their performances: Eric Ye (’24), Ruiyang Wu (’24), Bryan Fang (’23), Rishi Goswami (’20) and Vincent Wang (’18)

Eric, Bryan, Rishi and Vincent also qualified for the State Mathematics Contest in their respective divisions!

John Noland and Kristi Ramey co-chaperoned the students at the competition.

Algebra I:

TeamHaitian Huang (’23), Nitya Nalamothu (’23), Ruiyang Wu (’24), Eric Ye (’24)

Team finish: 4th place (earned plaque)

Top Individuals:

Eric Ye (6th), State Qualifier

Ruiyang Wu (12th), Medal Winner

Nitya Nalamothu (24th)                         



Team: Bryan Fang (’23), Andrew Lake (’22), Vinith Upadhya (’22), Emily Wang (’22)

Team finish: 3rd place (earned plaque)

Top Individuals:

Bryan Fang (5th), State Qualifier

Emily Wang (20th)

Andrew Lake (21st)


Algebra II:

TeamVictoria Du (’20), Paul Ibrahim (’21), Savannah Lu (‘20), Han Zhang (‘21)

Team finish: 9th place


TeamIsaac Fan (’19), Chelsea Fang (’18), Abby Geigerman (’19), Rishi Goswami (’20), Josh Pullen (’18), Vincent Wang (’18)

Team finish: 2nd place (earned plaque)

Top Individuals:

Vincent Wang (6th), State Qualifier

Rishi Goswami (13th), State qualifier

Chelsea Fang (17th)

Josh Pullen (21st)

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CA state winner of Math League Contest

April 17, 2017

After the final of six regular season contests, CA is the state winner – as well as the third-place team – in the 21-state region in Math League Press’ Math League Contest. A team plaque commemorating this achievement will soon be on display in U222.

Three CA students received individual recognition for being cumulative top scoring students for the year. Jack Maxfield (’17) amassed a nearly perfect 35/36 points, while Pranay Tankala (’17) and Vincent Wang (’18) scored 34/36 points for the six contests.

Other CA students who have been scoring members (top 5) on one or more contests this year are:

  • Katie Baker (’17)
  • Helen Chen (’20)
  • Thuc Dzu (’18)
  • Leo de Souza (’18)
  • Chelsea Fang (’18)
  • Rishi Goswami (’20)
  • Tyler Marshall (’17)
  • Aidan Sher (’20)
  • Charlotte Waechter (’17)
  • Lindsay Wrege (’17)

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