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Facing opponents from four other Southeast Ohio middle schools, the MATHCOUNTS team from Athens Middle School brought home first-place trophies in the individual, team and countdown-round events Saturday in the MATHCOUNTS regional contest hosted by Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology in the Academic & Research Center.
Competitors from Athens as well as Alexander Middle School, Logan-Hocking Middle School, Crooksville Middle School and Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Wellston, Ohio, brought their competitive spirits and love of mathematics to the annual daylong competition.
“I really love to do math,” said Logan-Hocking eighth-grader Natalie Ponce de Leon of Haydenville. “To be able to express my love for math -- it’s so fun.”
The regional event, which sends its winners to the state competition March 8 at Columbus State Community College, provides plenty of opportunity for just that.
“Competitions like MATHCOUNTS are so important to help students understand how fun math can be and give them a sense of success in being able to enjoy their accomplishments in mathematics,” said Jody Markley, Russ College director of multicultural experiences. “Too many students start losing interest in or begin to fear math in their middle school years, so it’s great to see so many dedicated young people get excited.”
The day’s activities, planned by Russ College Professor of Civil Engineering Ben Stuart and proctored by members of Ohio University’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, included individual sprint and target rounds that are used to score the individual winners, a team round for four-person teams to work on a set of problems cooperatively, and a countdown round that pits the top 10 individual finishers against each other in a bracket-style format where they buzz in to try to correctly and quickly calculate answers.
Countdown winner Leah Ryu, an Athens Middle School eighth-grader, said the speed round was intense but also part of what she loves about the event.
“It’s the rush,” said Ryu, who missed last year’s competition due to a scheduling conflict. “I think it’s so exciting. I feel really glad to have done so well this year.”
Logan-Hocking coaches and seventh-grade math teachers Kelly Wolfe and Stacey Ballenger said the teams give the children more than just practice and excitement about one of their favorite subjects. They also get a sense of belonging they might not find during the school day.
“When they’re around other students that are like them, who love math, they seem to blossom and relax and be more confident in who they are,” said Wolfe, who has been coaching Logan-Hocking MATHCOUNTS teams for 20 years.
Wolfe’s team this year took home the second-place trophies for the team and countdown round, earned by eighth-grader Frank Moore. The third-place countdown finisher was Andrew Dykeman-Daams from Athens Middle School, and the third-place team trophy when to Sts. Peter and Paul students.
Athens Middle School swept the individual event, with first place won by eighth-grader Ishan Matta, second place won by eight-grader Yu-Shiang Jeng, and Ryu taking home third.
Russ College electrical engineering freshman David Brown, who proctored the team round for Logan-Hocking’s two teams, remembers participating in math competitions when he was younger that helped him have fun with math, learn to work with others and eventually choose to study engineering.
“I found out that I liked math really early,” Brown said. “It’s important starting them early with their body of work and very important to guide them for the future.”