Math knowledge tested
Apr 19, 2012 (American News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
In just five seconds, more than 900 students from 50 regional high schools and middle schools went from casually talking to absolute silence.
Their silence signaled the beginning of the 59th annual mathematics contest for the northeast region of South Dakota that drew the top math students to test their mathematical mettle.
"It means a lot for us that we provide students with a forum to compete," said A.S. Elkhader, director for the contest and a math professor at Northern State University.
The contest had four divisions ranging from basic algebra to a division that combined geometry, algebra and trigonometry. Students were divided up by their level of knowledge in math and placed into different bleacher sections in Wachs Arena. Two tests are administered: a general one that tests all the students and a second test to break any ties in the scores.
While the competition draws hundreds of students each year, there are some who are surprised at the number of students who show up.
First-time competitor Ben Forrette, a student at Milbank High School taking the advanced algebra test, wasn't expecting more than a few groups of students.
"I was thinking it was going to be in a couple of classrooms, not a gym full of students," said Forrette, 16.
While he didn't know what to expect from the test, he was optimistic about his chances.
"I just hope I can do good. Maybe win," he said.
For the teachers who accompanied their students, the competition was a bit nostalgic.
"I went to college here and when I was in high school, I came to this contest," said Kristi Fredenburg, a high school math teacher from LaMoure, N.D. Fredenburg brought 34 students to compete in the contest.
"Some are (excited). Some aren't," she said. "Some are more enthusiastic to miss a day of school."
The test is a chance for the students to encounter a variety of math problems they don't normally see, she said.
"I feel it's a good experience to get them out and see what types of questions there are that you don't see in our classroom," she said.
Beyond the competition is a way for them to see the beauty of mathematics and its application, Elkhader said.
"We could use it as recruitment for our future students," he said.
But for the students who win the competition, there are no state finals.
"We don't have a state championship yet. That's one of those things we are working on," Elkhader said.
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