What is the number of degrees in a right angle times the number of degrees of one angle of an equilateral triangle? Compute in your head only.
This is a sample question posed at the Washington State Math Championship held in Blaine on March 19. Hosted by ConocoPhillips and the Blaine School District, more than 1,400 fifth- through eighth-grade students from all over the state competed as teams and individuals. Queen Anne's Seattle Country Day School team, which includes a student from Magnolia, came out on top in both categories.
Coached by parent Granya O'Neill, contestants included John Barnhart, Robin Barson, Grayson Chao, Steven Diamond, Michaela Fallon, Maya Gainer, Kelley Hall, Magnolia resident Donna Leet, Alex McMaster, Sean McQueen, Amelia Mockett, Miriam Pollock, Jenny Solyanik, Callie Wade and Zack Woodruff.
All are members of the Math Club, which meets once a week after school. Started by O'Neill about four years ago, the Math Club differs from math classes in that there is no curriculum.
"Kids tackle problems out of context," says O'Neill. "SCDS has a wonderful curriculum overall, oriented toward problem-solving, but in math classes kids are taught math skills chapter by chapter, each with like problems.
"Math Club is more like life," she adds. "Nobody tells you how to do it. Also, though students might arrive at the same answer to a problem, their minds work differently, and so their solutions take different routes. In Math Club kids explain their processes to each other.
"My challenge is to ask a good question; then I get to watch them think," O'Neill said. "It's beautiful, really. It's a privilege to work with kids who aren't just bright but who also love math as much as I do."
Teams at the tournament consisted of a maximum of four students from the same grade. They took five team tests in algebra, geometry, probability, an unpredictable combination of questions called "Potpourri," as well as "Mental Math," an oral test taken without the aid of paper, pencil or calculators.
A sixth individual test of 30 problems was also given, with the first 10 questions being scored toward the team test results. Thus all contestants vied for the individual championship. "In the individual section you have to be fast, not just good," O'Neill says.
Team victories illustrate the students' abilities to work together. "They know each others' strengths and trade problems accordingly," O'Neill explains. "It's like knowing who to pass the ball to in any other team sport."
Queen Anne residents Maya Gainer and Kelley Hall, along with Steven Diamond and Callie Wade, formed the SCDS eighth-grade team that won first place.
Steven Diamond also earned first place in the individual competition.
The SCDS sixth-grade team did well, too, placing 12th out of almost 100 teams at its level. That team included Chao, Leet, Mockett and Pollock.
Teru Lundsten is a freelance writer and photographer living on Queen Anne. You can rite her by email at the address email@example.com.[[In-content Ad]]