Most young people would probably not consider mathematics to be their favorite subject in school and would likely also acknowledge that it is a challenge, regardless of their abilities.
Recently, local middle school students, who share a passion and an aptitude for math, had the opportunity to take part in the 2013 National Engineers Week MathCounts competition Feb. 16 at the University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI).
MathCounts is a critical tool to encourage sixth, seventh and eighth grade students to engage in and hopefully pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics educations and careers.
This competition consisted of three rounds:
The Sprint Round (40 minutes) consists of 30 problems. This round tests accuracy, with time being such that only the most capable students will complete all of the problems. Calculators are not permitted.
The Target Round (approximately 30 minutes) consists of eight problems presented to competitors in four pairs (6 minutes per pair). This round features multi‑step problems that engage Mathletes in mathematical reasoning and problem-solving processes. Problems assume the use of calculators.
The Team Round (20 minutes) consists of 10 problems that team members work together to solve. Team member interaction is permitted and encouraged. Problems assume the use of calculators.
The MathCounts team from East Middle School in Tullahoma, which included Andrew Mares, Kathryn Brosemer, William Kuebitz and Spencer Baxter, took first place, with Webb School’s team in Bell Buckle taking the second place honors, and Tullahoma’s West Middle School placing third in the team competition.
MathCounts individual winners were Morgan Anderson, with West Middle School, who placed first; Kelsi Burt, with West Middle School, who placed second; and Andrew Mares, with East Middle School, who took third place honors.
Morgan Anderson, Kelsi Burt, Corrina Zhang with Webb School, and Caden Thronberry with East Middle School, were the top scoring individuals not on the winning team. These four individuals, plus the winning East Middle School Team, will compete in the Tennessee State competition in Nashville.
Harry Clark, Tullahoma Chapter MathCounts coordinator and a senior manager for test facility planning at AEDC was excited by what he witnessed at this year’s event.
“We had six schools participating this year, which was double what we had last year,” Clark said. “We had last year’s three competing schools, which were East Middle School, West Middle School and the Webb School, plus we had the Highland Rim Elementary School from Fayetteville. [Also] we had the Harris Middle School from Shelbyville and we had the Coffee County Middle School from Manchester involved with the competition.”
Clark said a program like MathCounts is not only critical to the mission at AEDC and other test organizations, but it is essential to the future of STEM careers in the United States.
Clark said he was very impressed with the local 2013 MathCounts competition – by the young people, both at the team and individual level, and the teachers, too.
“What I’ve discovered is that, even in these times of immediate gratification, there are kids out there who really like math.” he said, “And, if there are teachers available or coaches available to help them with this very difficult competition, those kids are eager to engage, to take their own personal time and build their skills so that they really grapple with this very difficult exam.
“My take-away [from this year’s MathCounts competition] is that I think there are teachers throughout our middle Tennessee area who are interested in how they can help their students come to terms with mathematics and other aspects of our technological society, that are beyond the curriculum. They simply need to be made aware of these opportunities to do that.”
Trent Stout, the teacher at East Middle School, led his MathCounts team in the local competition.
“Trent [at] East Middle School has an interesting approach,” Clark said. “They have really become the strong competing school in the last three or four years. I think that’s primarily because they have a very studied approach to this.”
East Middle School has an eighth grade team that is coached by Stout. The way the competition works, schools may bring a team of four, plus they can bring up to six other individual competitors. East Middle School had six other individual competitors who are sixth graders and seventh graders who were coached by Christy Hazelwood. The sixth and seventh graders are working up through the ranks.
Clark said Coffee County Middle School’s team also made a good showing.
“They have a new math teacher there and she informed me that she had done MathCounts in North Carolina, where she was previously,” Clark said. “She was really excited to know that there was MathCounts here and she brought a young team, and they competed well.
“The team from Highland Rim Elementary School in Fayetteville – the teacher who ran that team – that whole team was just really excited. They came with their own T-shirts which had a pi emblem on the front. That’s the first time that school had ever competed. But the teacher was really enthusiastic about this opportunity that it offered her to engage those students. So, I think they’ll be back.”
Clark also complimented the efforts of the Harris Middle School from Shelbyville, saying that they brought a large team, just as East did, and they had a good mix of grades represented.
The role AEDC’s senior leadership has taken in support of local National Engineering Week events is invaluable, according to Clark.
“[AEDC Commander] Colonel Toth comes to these events,” Clark said. “He invariably says, ‘AEDC needs engineers, you are going to be the next generation of engineers, we’re thrilled to see you engaging in these things that will help you become good engineers.’
“I think that’s fantastic. We’ve got to have that level of support over and over again, year after year.”