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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 8:27 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 58º


Students Make Their Skills Count at Math Super Bowl

Problem-solving and awards add up to big-time fun for the hundreds of competitors and their parents

Having 335 elementary school students assemble in one room creates what a mathematician might describe as chaos theory in action. But math was more than theory Thursday at the Math Super Bowl at Earl Warren Showgrounds; it was reason to celebrate.

As a plethora of preteens from 29 area schools competed to bring home the coveted trophies, parents hovered in the back, watching proudly. It’s an event that grows larger every year, according to coordinator Dave Williams.

Williams, who has been coordinating the Math Super Bowl for 28 years, said he has seen countless students compete and then go on to have careers that utilize math skills.

“They still remember this event,” he said.

What started as 10 schools competing in math grew to 29 schools. And that’s just on the South Coast. Other Math Super Bowls are coordinated in Orcutt and Ojai, Williams said.

“Kids get recognized for sports and athletics, and the Math Super Bowl was about giving that kind of honor to kids that just happen to be good at math,” said Williams, who is a technology coordinator for Montecito Union School. “We just wanted to honor outstanding students.”

The event is only for students in fourth, fifth or sixth grades, and was hosted by Montecito Union School, Cold Spring School, Peabody Charter School and the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Emma Nelson of Isla Vista is all smiles after winning a medal at the event
Emma Nelson of Isla Vista is all smiles after winning a medal at the event. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

The students competed on an individual level by taking a 50-question multiple-choice test. Then teams of four students work through a teams test and complete a hands-on activity. All of that leads up to the awards, bringing the students to an uncontainable noise level when their group is called to claim their medal or trophy. Click here for a complete list of Thursday’s winners.

Getting to the Math Super Bowl is something students work toward for months, so when they finally arrive they seem more than happy. Make that ecstatic.

“These kids voluntarily come to school early, do extra tests and really put a lot of hard work into preparing for this,” said Kathy Hensley, a sixth-grade coach for Washington School, which brought home first place Thursday. “It’s fantastic. The kids give it all.”

Coach Alan Katzer said the Washington fifth-grade team started with 33 students, but was whittled down to six students based purely on test scores. The group prepared by taking 15 tests used at previous Math Super Bowls.

The team from Washington School won first place in the Math Super Bowl's schoolwide competition Thursday
The team from Washington School won first place in the Math Super Bowl’s schoolwide competition Thursday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“It’s pure competition,” Hensley said.

Parents who volunteer to coach the teams also make a huge time commitment. The Washington School teams have been practicing once a week since January, and many of the teams that participate in the contest practice year-round, Katzer said. When asked how he felt going into it, Katzer said he was confident, but that anything can happen at the Math Super Bowl.

“I felt pretty good about it, but you never know,” he told Noozhawk, over a loud chorus of celebrating mathletes.

Fifth-grader Luke Tricase said the experience was “awesome,” and that mathematics is something he would like to pursue in the future.

The event has grown so big that the yearly event requires near constant planning.

“I’ll start planning next year’s event tomorrow,” Williams said, after all of the children from Thursday’s event had left the building.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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