Monday, April 28, 2008

Program gets city students excited about math

By Amanda Howe
Special to the Register

More than 160 middle school students, along with the rare fourth- and fifth-grader from 15 New Haven public schools gathered at Yale University Friday to compete in something that they have grown passionate about: math.
Yale senior Brian Edwards put the Mathcounts Outreach program here together last year; it gets students in the New Haven public middle schools more involved in math.
“What Brian has done is set up an organization that will continue once he graduates,” said Lou DiGioia, executive director of Mathcounts.
Edwards said he got the idea to begin the program from his own experience of being a “Mathlete” in his middle school in New York City and through mentoring students in New Haven.
“When I was a sophomore in college I was at an after-school program and we were doing this exercise where you would say what your favorite subject is. Mine was math. I then asked the kids if they were familiar with Mathcounts and they were not,” Edwards said.
DiGioia said the first three different tests students took Friday were written.
“The first, called the Sprint Round, involved word problems which students couldn’t use calculators to solve. The second, called the Target Round, allowed students to use calculators, and the third, called the Team Round, allowed students to work in teams to solve problems together,” DiGioia said.
Following the three tests, the student from each school with the highest score went into the “Countdown Round.” DiGioia said the round is like a ladder. The 15th-ranked student would go up against the 14th-ranked student and whoever won that round, which was best of three, would go up against the next student in ranking.
Mathcounts, in its second year, had two former middle school students attend Friday.
Addie Mitchell, now a ninth-grader, noted the competition held at Yale’s Becton Center Davies Auditorium, was a lot bigger than last year.
Renqinq Wu, also a ninth-grader, said she was excited to watch schools battle it out and was impressed by the increase in the number of schools and students this year. Both attended Hooker Middle School and won last year’s Mathcounts Outreach contest with their team. Ciara Moran, an eighth-grader at Truman School and a competitor in the Countdown Round, said she joined because she was told she had the potential to do well at math. She described the tests taken so far as “easy.” Bill Piel, a math teacher at Sheridan Academy for Excellence, described the math that he teaches his students involved in the program as “harder than what they would be doing in class”.
“It’s exciting for me to see all of these kids excited about math,” Piel said. “What Brian is doing is great. He’s getting all of the (city public schools) to participate.”
Piel recalled there was a time in the 1980s when the Mathcounts program was in New Haven schools, but said it wasn’t as big as it is now.
Nationwide, Mathcounts has been operating for 25 years. Although Mathcounts Outreach is only in its second year of operation here, DiGioia is certain it will grow.
Amanda Howe is a Register Intern.

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