At Hudson Middle School, math counts big time
Math might intimidate some but not students at the Hudson Middle School.
Making math matter to students and showing them how important it is in their daily lives is an important objective at the school but they have also found a way to make it fun with some friendly but challenging competition.
This is the first year HMS students have participated in Math Masters, a program that challenges students to use their critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities by competing in several mathematical areas including number facts and operations, properties of numbers, geometry, time and money, statistics and probability, decimals, fractions and percents and charts and graphs.
They participated in two competitions and in a contest with New Richmond, Hudson had a second and third place team as well as an individual first place winner among the 83 students who competed.
HMS teacher Adam Harker is the Math Masters coach. He met with the students weekly for practice and they worked together in study halls and after school. Math teacher Sarah Mattison said the students get to take math out of the classroom setting and seem to like the idea of the competition.
“There’s much more of a social piece when they are working together on problems and coaching one another. They get pretty excited when you wouldn’t think working on math problems would do that.”
HMS seventh- and eighth-grade math students got their chance to compete at Math Counts, a nationwide contest series aimed at students who have a talent and passion for math and who need to be challenged.
Teacher Sarah Engstrom heads up the HMS gifted and talented student program. She recruited students for the program and coordinated the Math Counts and Math Masters competitions while Mattison and Harker coached the students.
Math Counts, like Math Masters, focuses on problem-solving and critical thinking and involves high level mathematics.
“It is a different type of math for the student. It takes the skills they are learning to a new application and they seem to gravitate to the competition side of it,” said Mattison.
The students meet weekly and Mattison says they enjoy sharing their interest in math with one another. “They like being with kids who are like-minded and they really challenge one another.”
A typical after school session would go something like this. The students would take a practice test then go through the answers they gave together and talk about the different ways they arrived at their conclusions. Mattison says it involves a fair amount of teamwork as they decide which is the best answer and what is the best way to get there.
“It really is about problem-solving more than memorizing numbers or facts. It is more about math in the real world and honing a skill that will help them,” said Mattison.
In Math Counts and in Math Masters, the numbers of boys versus girls who participate is averaging out. Engstrom and Mattison both say that participation in the programs does not appear to be gender-based. And neither believe girls are any less competitive than the boys or in any way hold back.
“They all want to win and they all do their best,” said Mattison.
Hudson students made an impressive showing at the regional Math Counts contest with five HMS students in the top 10 of all participants with one student, Lizzie Schousek, going onto to state where she finished in the middle.
Engstrom said they hope to expand the number of students who participate in Math Counts and Math Masters. The students she recruits or who come on their own aren’t necessarily higher level math students or in the gifted program but may just like math, especially outside the classroom.
“We are always glad to see kids in a different setting and mixing with different kids. It’s good for everyone," Engstrom said.
For more information about these programs contact Engstrom at HMS at (715)377-3820, ext. 4220, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.