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Midvale Middle School wins MathCounts titles

Mar 30, 2017 11:29AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Midvale Middle School MathCounts team competed to capture both the district and chapter titles. (Bob McGee/Midvale Middle School)

By Julie Slama   |  Julie@mycityjournals.com

Seven of the top 10 scores belonged to Midvale Middle School, more than enough for the South Salt Lake chapter title of MathCounts.

“These kids have gotten much better mathematically,” Coach Bob McGee said. “These are our A+ students who are future engineers and math leaders in the world.”

At the district competition on Jan. 19, the team took seven of the top 10 places. It repeated the same results—seven of the top 10—at the Feb. 4 chapter contest, which included public, private and charter schools in the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley.

MathCounts is a club and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement in every U.S. state and territory and provides students with the foundation for science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

The area competition has been held for more than 20 years. There are four rounds: a 30-question sprint round; a target round with four sets of two problems; a team competition where students work together on 10 questions; and then an oral countdown round.

“At chapter, we scored 57 of the 66 points possible. Our kids are practicing doing more questions and being exposed to more math questions from algebra to geometry to probability. These are tough questions they’re solving,” he said.

This year’s team leaders at chapter included eighth-grader Ilha Hwang, who finished second to lead the team to a first-place plaque. The contributing team members include eighth-grader John Baird, who finished third; seventh-grader Zoe Liu, who placed fifth; eighth-grader Michael Lu, who finished seventh; eighth-grader Yash Ghanathe, who finished eighth; seventh-grader Eric Chen, who finished ninth; and eighth-grader Wentao Zhang, who finished 10th.

“We’re stronger than we were last year, so I have pretty good hopes for state,” McGee said.

The state competition is Saturday, March 25. Midvale Middle will compete against about 20 teams and 20 other individuals who placed high at chapter contests.

As the team prepares for state, McGee has pulled previous years’ tests as well as online sites for the students to study.

“These kids thrive on solving difficult questions. They’re really smart and quick. For them, it’s an outlet for their abilities. It gives them the incentive to try, to learn, to study more. It recognizes them for doing really well,” he said.

Yash, who will compete as an individual at state, said that he practiced more as he prepares for state.

“Generally, a lot of us are ahead in our math skills so we’re able to build on what we know so we can compete at a higher level,” he said.

Ilha, who finished second at state last year, said that he is looking forward to state and wants to compete again at nationals.

“I practice math online and do it on my own, in my free time,” he said. “It’s fun.”

Top state and national winners can be awarded scholarships, McGee said.

Plus, the top four finishers at state comprise the state team that travels for free to the national competition. McGee has been named the state coach four years—in 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2015—and has taken the team to Washington, D.C., Orlando and Boston to compete nationally.

“MathCounts has kept me teaching at middle school. I use MathCounts’ questions as starters in my math class,” he said.

The team—as well as about 20 other students who are trying to improve their mathematical abilities to make future teams—have been studying together weekly since September.

“The skills they learn help them in their classes and they help one another. They are here for the joy of doing math,” McGee said.

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