Thursday, March 08, 2007


Last weekend I was lucky enough to chaperone a group of students down to Regina for the SK Math Challenge. What Saturday don't I want to get up at 4h45 to ride on a yellow school bus for 2.5 hours on an icy highway? Oh wait... all of them. Nothing says comfort like having your knees up around your neck and very little heat. The wheel well I sat overtop of turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it kept my feet off the ground, and apparently at least 5 degrees warmer than everyone else's feet.

When we finally arrived in Regina I was very happy to realign my body and partake in the 8h30am cookie break provided for us. Cookies at 8h30? I was slowly warming up to these math types.

After everyone was cookied and juiced, it was time to get things started. A very impressive number of 242 students from gr 8-10 were present (technically we snuck some grade 7s in...) The students wrote 3 rounds - one individual, two group. While they were all writing their individual rounds, I met some math types and helped out with door prizes, supervision, etc.

During the two group rounds, I supervised a room with 3 different groups of students. One from my school, one from a Regina highschool, and one from a small town. Before coming, I had been told our students were out to win. Not having much prior involvement with the students or this particular math competition, I really wasn't aware of just how serious they were. Watching our students compete was something in itself. They had a game plan and strategy that had obviously been practiced. They divided and attacked the first round and seemed to compile their answers as some kind of technicality. The second round was divided, but more group discussion took place. It is fantastic and hilarious to watch kids get this into math. Large arm movements and heated discussion was going on at all 3 tables. I felt bad, because one (presumably grade 9) boy from the Regina school kept coming to ask me questions, but as he would walk towards me he would have the most intense look of concentration on his face, that it was hard not to laugh. I hope he also does drama. Seriously. The third group was there for fun and may or may not have gotten one of the second round questions correct but they were still very entertaining.

While the kids were writing away, I got to visit with another teacher from a small town close to the border who's name I've already forgotten. She was shocked to see how into it my students were, and it is pretty amazing that somehow a reverse sort of peer pressure has built up around the math contests and math club. Someone must be doing something right if you're a "loser" if you miss math club.

The least pleasant part of the day? Lunch. It was loud, the kids were all riled up, and an idiot designed the setup. Everyone got into a large line that did a bit of a Disney wind to first get their drink. So far so good. Then, the drink line branched off into 2 different lines for pizza acquisition. Also good. However, instead of getting a plate and then pizza, you were supposed to walk past the pizza to the far end of the table for you plate and then back around in a circular pattern. Who thought of this? Instead of 4 lines, there were two very chaotic circles. And only one girl bringing out new pizza. Have these people never seen 14 year old boys eat? The pizza girl never had a chance. I was very happy NSFG and Mr. T showed up to have lunch with me. We had a nice, albeit quick, visit while the students were receiving a tour of the University.

Back for award time. Wow. Our students took home pretty much everything. 7 of the top ten grade 9s, 6 of the top 10 grade 10s, and all but one team award. The grade 7s and 8s from our feeder school also cleaned up and only 1 of their students went home without a certificate. I even won the good door prize - $75 to spend on NCTM stuff. Whoot!

On a bit of a math (and sugar) high, the bus ride home was a little on the painful side. Ok, by the time we hit Hanley, very on the painful side. I'm certainly looking forward to next year when it's in Saskatoon and I can just witness the math parts!

1 comment:

Chris said...

Our school had a similar thing against all the other international schools in Phnom Penh -- and our recipe for success was composing each team of one Korean student who speaks good English with two who are new to the school. Man, those Korean students do a lot of math in Korea. Oh, and we won the whole thing. No real surprise.