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SMS mathletes challenge their minds at school-wide math festival

Middle school girls work on math problems togetherThe Spartan multi-use building at Sunnyvale Middle School buzzed with energy on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 with students from every grade level participating in the school’s first mathematics festival in place of their normal math class.

Students had 40-minutes to go through 15 different stations that offered 12 levels of challenge.

According to math teacher Brittany Leknes, the goal of the festival was to have students work on perseverance and enable a growth mindset by giving students the freedom of choice to move from table to table without a set time limit. Students might take the entire block of 40 minutes for one problem or they might try to get through all 15 tables in that time.

Different stations had students working in pairs to solve problems such as building algebraic function patterns out of cubes or solving simultaneous equations with two unknowns using beans.

The event was coordinated by Leknes and the California Mathematics Council, which brings math programs that incorporate algebra, geometry, and numbers to K-8 grade schools.Middle school boys figure out math problem using cubes

Kim Stiewig from the California Mathematics Council said the festival is about creating an opportunity to see math in a different light.

“This event is meant to be hands-on and interactive and is appropriate for all skill levels so students can really enjoy themselves in a different setting,” Stiewig said. “It’s a safe place where they can take that leap or take a risk where they might not otherwise.”

The festival also brought in about 60 parent volunteers to serve as facilitators at each station and to help encourage students to keep going. SMS parent Kristin Gaeta said she loves math so volunteering for this event was the perfect opportunity for her.

Girls spell out the word Math after graphing certain points on picture graph paper“I think this is great–getting them out of their comfort zones and having different kinds of problems,” Gaeta said. “All of that stuff is good because it’s a variety. It’s nice that kids get to work as teams, too, so they can feed off of each other and use logic to solve problems.”

The following evening, kids went from being participants to facilitators for a family math festival on Feb. 1. Students were given the opportunity to share the activities they had done and allowed time for parents and students to do math side-by-side.

“I like that I get to challenge my brain a bit more and I like how some of the problems are complex for kids who like math such as me,” said sixth-grader Rhojadi Corpuz about the festival. “I think people will like it; it’s a good way to excite your brain.”

Article by Sunnyvale School District Communications Coordinator Alia Wilson.

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