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MMS MATHCOUNTS team headed to state

February 29, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - After performing well at the Southwest Chapter level of the Minnesota MATHCOUNTS competition recently at Southwest Minnesota State University, four students from Marshall Middle School punched their ticket to the upcoming state competition.

Coordinated by the members of the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers, the math enrichment program for middle school students stimulates student interest by promoting math achievement to be as challenging, exciting and prestigious as school sports. That certainly has been the case with the MMS mathletes - eighth-grader Michael Gutman and seventh-graders Mitchell Sueker, Joe Blanchard and Christopher Allen.

"It's just really fun competing with kids your age and showing off your math skills," Gutman said. "We did well at our last competition. We got second place as a team."

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk
Seventh-graders Christopher Allen, Joe Blanchard, Mitchell Sueker and eighth-grader Michael Gutman will be representing Marshall Middle School at the 2012 state MATHCOUNTS competition in Plymouth after qualifying for the event at the local Southwest chapter level recently. The team is coached by Cody Lunde.

The MMS representatives took second behind the team from Willmar Middle School and will join approximately 125 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade math students at the 2012 state competition on March 23-24, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Plymouth. Trophies are given to the six highest placing students, the four top teams and the four winners of the countdown round.

None of the MMS students have advanced to state before, so the experience will be completely new for them. But their adviser, Cody Lunde, a first-year teacher at MMS, is confident the team is well-equipped for the competition.

"They're tested on algebra, geometry and everything else," Lunde said. "They have to be good at all of it, otherwise they'll struggle with different parts. They're all pretty well rounded. I think Michael, being in eighth grade, has been exposed to a little bit more than the seventh-grade boys have been. But they can handle it. They're very smart."

Besides settling into his first year of teaching, this year marks Lunde's first time coaching the math club. He's quite familiar with it, though, after participating when he was in middle school.

"It's going really good," he said. "I really like the school and the staff. And the students are amazing. These boys are so much fun to work with."

The MATHCOUNTS competitions are designed to be completed in approximately three hours. The sprint round (40 minutes), consists of 30 problems and test accuracy. Under the time constraint, only the most capable students will finish all the problems. Calculators are not permitted for this portion.

"The problems do get hard," Allen said. "It has a lot of variety of math problems. On the last test, there was a lot on area."

The target round (30 minutes) entails mathematical reasoning and problem-solving processes. For the eight multi-step problems, presented to competitors in four pairs, calculators are allowed.

"You get a worksheet and you fill out all the problems," Blanchard said. "There's a certain time limit. When it's up, they take it and grade it or something. We have two events that we do as individuals and then there's a team event."

The team round (20 minutes) consists of 10 problems that allows interaction with teammates and the use of calculators.

"The team round is really fun because if you don't know it, maybe your friend knows it," Blanchard said. "And, you can use your skills together to find the answer."

Sueker said he especially likes the team round too.

"It's fun working together as a team to solve problems," Sueker said. "It's my first year in MATHCOUNTS and I'm liking it a lot. It's pretty fun."

Also in his first year, Allen feels he has benefited from the experience.

"I've just been good at math my whole life," he said. "My mom thought it was a good idea for me to join the team. I'm glad I did."

Gutman also qualified for state as an individual participant after taking first place in the countdown competition, which is a fast-paced, oral competition for top-scoring individuals, based on their scores in the spring and target rounds.

"I'm pretty excited, but I'm a little nervous," Gutman said. "We're competing against the whole state of Minnesota, not just the southwest portion."

During the countdown round, pairs of mathletes compete against each other and the clock to solve problems. Calculators are not allowed.

"If you make it into the top 10, you get to do the countdown round (individual) which is what Michael did," Lunde said. "That's the first person to answer it. It's high intensity, but it's really fun to watch, though. The other kids were having a blast watching Michael do it."

While the math team has shown its dedication before this, their commitment to learning will be put to the test in the next few weeks, in preparations for the state competition.

"You can go online to their website and find their countdown questions that they've had and all the sprint round and the target round that they've had the past couple of years," Gutman said. "We can review those."

Depending on how well they do at the state competition, the mathletes also have the chance to advance to the national competition, which is held May 10-13 at Disneyworld in Orlando, Fla.

"We're looking at the state test from last year, so they can kind of get an idea of what to expect," Lunde said. "We're practicing two times a week until the competition, so hopefully we get some stuff done."



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