Middle school mathletes head to state competition
Liz Coyle’s MathCounts class was buzzing with excitement on Thursday afternoon as students prepared for the upcoming MathCounts state competition. The students were chatting while snacking on pretzels and popcorn because, as they put it, “snacks go well with math.”
MathCounts is a nationwide math program for middle schoolers of all ability levels. It is meant to build confidence and improve attitudes about math and problem solving.
The Aspen Middle School team placed second at the Western Slope Region of the competition on Feb. 25 and will head to the state competition at Cherry Creek High School on Saturday.
In addition to the team of four, Aspen Middle School sent six individuals to the first competition in Grand Junction. Though none of the them qualified for state, Coyle said they had one student who was very close.
The team qualifying for state is made up of Zoe Owen, Kieron Byford, Greta DeBacker, and Justin Mavrovic.
“I think because we did better than we thought we would (at regionals), I’m going to have a lot more confidence going into states than I did going into regionals,” said Zoe.
The MathCounts class meets every other day and has been preparing for the competition with practice tests and tests from past competitions.
“MathCounts is about how much you know about math, but it’s more about using logic to do it the fastest. It doesn’t matter if you’re in eighth grade or sixth grade because it’s using logic and math, which is how it’s different,” said Jack Diaz, one of the students who competed at the school competition.
According to Justin and Kieron, the environment during the competition was very quiet, but it wasn’t intimidating to either of them.
“It was kind of calming,” Kieron said.
“You’re just focused on what you’re doing,” said Justin.
The school’s MathCounts class is made up of eighth graders, but seventh grader Norah Glasgow attended the regional competition with the group.
“I was mainly just there to have fun,” she said, adding she did not find the competition very intimidating.
The competition is comprised of four rounds: Sprint, Target, Team, and Countdown Round. In the Sprint Round, students have 40 minutes to complete 30 math problems. The Target Round focuses on problem-solving and mathematical reasoning; students get four pairs of problems and have six minutes to complete each. In the Team Round, which focuses on problem-solving and collaboration, students have 20 minutes to complete 10 math problems as a team.
The final round, called the Countdown, focuses on speed and accuracy. The top 10 individuals are ranked and compete against each other in a best two-out-of-three format, Kieron explained.
“I started at fifth and then the person in eighth moved all the way up to second and beat me, so I went down to sixth,” he said.
Coyle said schools where she previously taught had MathCounts programs, and she was happy to bring it to Aspen Middle School.
“It’s a different way to approach math. It’s not just a set from our curriculum,” she said. “There are questions from all different areas of math — algebra, probability, statistic, trigonometry — there are all sorts of ways that we don’t even think about that math affects our lives.”
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