Teams compete in mathematics competition

Published 9:41 am Friday, January 27, 2017

Students from six Warren County Schools battled it out Thursday in an academic competition that got gears turning in their minds.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District, in conjunction with the Society of American Military Engineers, held the fourth annual math competition for area junior high students Thursday.

The format of the competition is set up like the nationally held MATHCOUNTS competition. Students work on problem solving by doing word problems covering mainly algebra and statistics.

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“It varies across the entire gambit of problems from geometric problems to algebraic problems,” David Randolph, a competition coordinator, said. “It’s just a variety. It’s basically quadratic equations, Pythagorean theorem, different techniques a sixth through eighth grader would utilize and would be aware of.”

The Academy of Innovation was announced the winner of the team competition. Teams consisted of four members and spent 20 minutes on ten word problems. Porters Chapel Academy, St. Francis Xavier Elementary, St. Aloysius High, Vicksburg Junior High and Warren Junior High were the other schools to compete in the competition.

The competition also had two rounds of individual competition. The top three from those rounds were announced as third place Will Keen, sixth grade at St. Francis Xavier; second place Benjamin Talbot, eighth grade Academy of Innovation; and a tie in first Rebecca Erekson and Landon Pettway, eighth grade Academy of Innovation.

Both Erekson and Pettway competed in both the team and individual competitions and seemed truly surprised to receive the top honors.

“I was not expecting it at all,” Erekson said.

Talbot, who also competed in all competition rounds, said the difficulty of the problems varied, and Erkson agreed.

“They were kind of challenging, but I understood most of them,” Erekson said.

Talbot said he almost didn’t participate this year because he wasn’t feeling well.

Last year he placed first.

Pettway said he was better prepared this year after also participating in the competition last year.

“(The questions) weren’t as hard (as last year). Last year I was in seventh grade so now I know a lot more and it seemed easier,” he said.

In the first round individuals are given 40 minutes to complete 30 word problems. Round two is broken up into four portions where students are given two word problems to work every 6 minutes, eventually doing eight problems in 24 minutes.

Eighth-grade math teacher Laura Bunch from Warren Central Junior High said some of her students were given the opportunity to participate in the competition and practiced during the afternoons for two weeks.

“We basically encourage our kids to achieve and go beyond what we’re doing in the classroom. We offer opportunities to engage in mathematics and problem solving,” she said. “They work together to problem solve and be creative in their analytical thinking.”

Taylor Briggs, an eighth grader at WCJH, was competing for the second year. She only competed in the individual rounds.

“It was pretty simple, the first few, but it got harder as it went on,” Briggs said. “But it wasn’t too difficult.”

She enjoyed her two years participating in the competition and said she learned a lot from the experience.

“It helps me learn different things that I didn’t know before so I can home and research them and get better at math,” Briggs said.

Randolph said it is important for the Corps to host the competition each year.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to see what the MATHCOUNTS competition is about, but it also gives us an opportunity to let the kids understand what the Corps does and how STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) plays into what we do,” he said, adding students watch a video about the Corps while the scores are being tabulated.

The awards were given out by commander and district engineer at the Vicksburg District Col. Mike Derosier and Henry Dulaney, chief of the Engineering and Construction Division at the Vicksburg District and the president of the Vicksburg Post of the Society of American Military Engineers.

“As a nation we are who we are because of STEM graduates,” Dulaeny said. “If we are going to continue to be who we are as a nation, the leaders of the free world, then we’re going to need to produce more STEM grads. This is our part helping that happen by encouraging these young people to think that math and science is important.”