Math field day proves to be hard work, plus fun

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By Jenni Vincent, Journal Staff Writer
The Journal

INWOOD - There was plenty of hard work - not to mention practice sessions - before Berkeley County students were selected to participate in this year's Math Field Day, so much so that teachers proudly consider this an academic event.

Perhaps no one knows that better than Anne Latskey, Berkeley County Schools math coordinator, who, along with other local educators, was busy Tuesday working with intermediate students (fourth- and fifth-graders) who'd come to Musselman High to compete and show off their math skills.

While the older students held their event last week (including ninth through 12th grade), plans were for middle school youngsters in grades sixth, seventh and eighth to compete today - weather willing, Latskey said with a smile.

Everyone got a little something for participating, according to Latskey, who said local businesses were generous about donating items to be given to the students.

However, there was also an awards ceremony and the top three in grades four through nine advance to the regional competition at Shepherd University on March 10, while the top 10 in grades 10 through 12 will also go forward, she said.

The state competition is held in the spring and usually in Charleston or Morgantown, Latskey said, adding that about 100 students took part Tuesday. Schools sending teams included Eagle School, Mountain Ridge, Mill Creek, Orchard View and Tomahawk. Students from Faith Christian Academy and St. Joseph School are also invited to participate.

While getting there wasn't easy, participants at Tuesday's event had to answer more than one type of problem, including 10 mental exact questions "where we read them a question twice and they had to give their exact answer without writing anything down," she said.

Students also had to complete estimation questions where they had to come within a certain percentage of the correct answer, Latskey said, adding that youngsters had also moved through a series of stations as part of the competition. After lunch, they completed a written exam, she said.

"This is a lot of work for them and they work hard to prepare. It's on grade level for them but it's also more rigorous - more fraction, bigger numbers - because we really want to test their skills," Latskey said.

Abigail McCoy, a fifth-grade student at Mountain Ridge Intermediate, is a self-proclaimed math enthusiast, adding, "I like everything about it."

Although she liked the mental math exact problems the best, they were also the most difficult and a little scary, McCoy said.

"But I still like competing," she said with a shy smile.

Deb Glover, a fifth-grade teacher at Potomack Intermediate, said she's helped with the math day event for 18 years because she feels so strongly about its importance and positive impact on students.

Glover said work begins in October and pays off as students learn more about math - and themselves.

"Our students have made a real commitment to this and they are an academic team. It is a positive process which begins with them becoming more confident - especially as they begin to feel better about the mental math. They also grow more confident about their academic abilities as their math skills just blossom," she said.

One of her students, fifth-grader Patrick Boarman, said he was happy to participate because math is one of his favorite subjects.

"I was here last year and this year is fun too, but we are in a higher grade so it is harder," he said.

Another fifth-grader, Ashton McFillan, had a different reason for getting involved, adding, "I hadn't been in much stuff like this, so I really wanted to try it. Now that I'm here, I have been a little nervous. I had butterflies in my stomach when I did my problems."

Win, lose or draw, McFillan is happy with his decision.

"I think I'm better at math now because of the different stuff I've tried and I've done the best I can," he said.