Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 7:37 pm | Fair 78º


Washington Elementary Students Ace Math Olympiads

Fifth-graders earn a 'Highest Achievement' plaque from the international program

Barry Nitikman’s fifth-grade GATE class at Washington Elementary School earned a “Highest Achievement” plaque in this year’s Math Olympiads for their superior performance in this worldwide competition. In addition to the plaque, a trophy was awarded for the top scorer. Students also won silver pins and certificates.

The Math Olympiads are an international program in which students from thousands of schools all over the world work to develop advanced problem-solving techniques. They train regularly as part of their class math time, and take one official test per month for five months.

Each test contains five challenge problems, with a strict time limit imposed — generally three to five minutes per problem. The difficulty of the problems is such that a “good” score would be two or three out of five.

Washington School’s students worked extremely hard on the full range of problem-solving techniques, and their excellent performance was reflected in their earning a plaque for “Highest Achievement” from the directors of the program.

So, how did Nitikman’s class do it?

“We started working on the full range of problem-solving strategies right away in early September, and this continued as the year went on. We had regular practice tests, and every Friday we had a special Friday Challenge, in which the students worked with a partner to solve special challenge problems, which are very similar to those found on the Olympiads. We would follow this with an in-depth discussion of how students arrived at their solutions,” he said. “This was always a highlight of the week, not just for the students, but for myself. I was continually amazed as the students came up to the Elmo to display their brilliant conceptual solutions. Some of the classic problems I challenged them with they not only solved, but came up with original strategies of their own.

“I presented a workshop at the California Association for the Gifted convention in Palm Springs this year, as I have every year for the past seven years, and for this I prepared a complete set of Friday Challenges and Problems of the Week, which I have shared with countless teachers from all over the state. I would be more than happy to make these available to any interested district teachers of GATE students, grades 4-7. They are guaranteed to challenge and intrigue gifted math students.”

— Barbara Keyani is the administrative services and communications coordinator for the Santa Barbara School District.

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