A quiet room is filled with 70 youngsters. Eyes are monitoring them. Each child sits at a cherry or white table with pencils, sharpeners, calculators and a nervousness like they were taking the SAT.
But it’s not. It’s the sprint round of MATH COUNTS. The kids can’t use calculators, just brainpower to answer a thick packet filled with nothing but math problems.
MATH COUNTS is a math competition promoting interest in math among 6th, through 8th graders. The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers (PSPE) hosted MATH COUNTS at Temple on Sat., Feb. 10.
Pennsylvania state champions are rewarded scholarships and move onto the national competition. Twelve schools participated in the event organized by Dr. Phillip D. Udo-Inyang.
“The reason why I am volunteering is to make students proficient in mathematics and get [them] ready for [a] future level of mathematics,” said Ruben David, a third year volunteer.
Students from area schools were tested on probability, statistics, linear algebra and polynomials. The winning team and the top four individuals advance to the states and later to the nationals.
CCA Baldi Middle School won first place last year, beating Germantown Friends and this year took first beating J.R. Masterson. To answer the question of a possible three-peat: “Hopefully yes,” exclaimed Michael Sigal, team captain of CCA Baldi Middle. Jared Dashoff, Pamela Vockeroth and Beth Ann Burella, CCA Baldi Middle 8th graders, thought they did pretty well.
“You really got to love math to do it,” said Michael Squillace, coach of CCA Baldi Middle. The strategy for this team is logical: dedication and determination. Squillace believes that public schools have a difficult time in this competition. He also believes it’s easier for private schools to win the competition because of smaller class sizes in private schools.
Josh Klur, coach of Germantown Friends, wasn’t prepared to guarantee victory. Last year, it took second place and had the highest individual scorer, Jennifer Carter.
“I didn’t make her a winner. She is a winner,” said Klur.
Even though MATH COUNTS promotes math at a very influential age, this type of program is not extended to high school students. That is why Jennifer Carter couldn’t compete this year.
Hap Parker came to MATH COUNTS to support his daughter Suzanne from Germantown Friends. “I’m thrilled,” said Parker. “This is her first exposure to something like this. [I’m] hoping she’ll get experience about [MATH COUNTS] and keep her interest in math.” Suzanne was having fun and wanted to compete again next year.
The beginning of the target round produced a hungry turnover of pages. Quick punches into calculators made the children look like an office full of accountants crunching numbers.
Among the students who were competing were Kaley and Colin Laren. They are the brother-sister team competing for the first time from William Penn Charter. Their father, Guy Laren came out to support his son and daughter. Colin enjoyed his experience. Colin liked the competition and sharing it with his sister. He said he would explore his talents in the future.
Kaley was a nervous wreck. “I think it’s a good idea putting emphasis on education [instead of sports],” Kaley said. She thinks it’s also wonderful to be rewarded for being smart.
Many girls don’t compete in MATH COUNTS. Anna Marie Croney of Norwood Fontbonne Academy doesn’t have many girls on her team. CCA Baldi Middle had about three girls on their team that went to the state championships.
But for the girls who do compete, they’re out to win. “I’ve had some very tough female students that did well here and in the states,” said Dr. Udo-Inyang.
The countdown round was exhilarating. The top ten individuals are quizzed orally in this round. It’s a mathematical duel. Elimination was quick and the problems came fast. The one who to answer the most questions correctly is the winner. Dr. Udo-Inyang finds the countdown round to be exhilarating.
The last two competitors were Michael Sigal and Aaron Blacksberg. The pressure was intensified. Aaron Blacksberg was pretty tense and shaky.
“The very last question [I] thought he was going to get it right, but I was like I know the answer,” Blacksberg said.