In an era of steadily declining funds for public schools, the good news about math education in Culver City Unified is multiplying. In particular, Linwood E. Howe Elementary, host of the only Math Olympiads Tournament for elementary and middle schools in Los Angeles county, now can count 11 Olympiads medalists among its student body.
Dr. Jason Frand, volunteer Math Olympiads coach, awarded 11 advanced fourth- and fifth -grade math students “medals” (embroidered patches) from the International Mathematics Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools (MOEMS) organization. These students finished in the top 50% of all participants in the March 20 Math Olympiads, achieving a score of 9 or more out of a possible 25 points. The March 20 tournament was a worldwide event and the culmination of a challenging 5-month season of mathematics contests. The fourth-grade recipients for the 2009-2010 school year were Andrew Cox, Julia Martin, Emily San Juan, Zaid Simjee and Emily Wulf. The fifth-grade medalists were Laela Bell, Darin Camponuevo, Kiarra Mueller, Salvador Robledo, Max Sterner, and Roberto Valverde.
Max Sterner also received the MOEMS organization’s prestigious silver pin for achieving a score in between the 90th and 97th percentiles in the March 20 tournament, as well the school’s trophy for its top fifth-grade scorer. Julia Martin took home the trophy for top fourth-grade score. Frand also awarded certificates of participation to 15 other fourth graders and 16 additional graduating 5th graders.
Between November and March, all 42 students attended twice-weekly practice sessions with Frand and Ruth Sabean, both of whom are retired UCLA faculty members. Frand and Sabean coached the students to solve unusual and difficult problems and to think creatively. “Our goal is to engage the students in mathematical thinking and show them that there is so much more to math than just arithmetic and rules,” says Frand. “We want them to know that math can be fun! We want them to experience the real satisfaction of solving a challenging problem.”
Karen Burkenheim, a 4th/5th-grade teacher and Linwood Howe’s MOEMS program coordinator says that she sees amazing growth in the problem-solving skills of the kids who participate in MOEMS. “It improves their reasoning skills, not only in math, but also in science and social studies. They look at other subjects with a more critical eye due to what we train them to do in the math enrichment program. It’s amazing.”
“I am so proud of the achievement of all these students” said Frand. “My hope is that knowing that they can be successful now, many of these students will think about math and science for their careers.”
With the next school year peeking over the horizon in ten days, students will be prepping for the next round of math competition.