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Mathletes hunt for the answers
Written by Greg Ruland   
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 17:00

Math counts for something at Cottonwood Middle School, where champion mathletes excel at state and regional competition each year, according to CMS math teacher and team sponsor Kathleen Jensen.

The proof: Teams from CMS placed first at state competition in three out of the last eight years and settled for second in the others.

This year, two students on the team, Brett Pinar, 13, and Mikey Gilboy, 12, took third and fifth place respectively at regional competition and travel to Vail, outside Tucson, on Saturday, March 13, to compete at state.

The team, which placed second at the regional competition Feb. 6, will also compete in Vail, Jensen said.

MathCounts is a national competition that promotes middle school mathematics through clubs and contests in every state, she said.

The competition involves written and oral tests based on standards of the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics.
Participants advance through school, regional and state competitions until 228 finalists from 50 states and seven U.S. territories are selected for the national math meet that takes place in May.

Age-appropriate questions require students to apply a variety of math skills like calculating the circumference of a circle or the length of a hypotenuse, Jensen said.

“We learn how to use equations to find numbers that make up a certain sequence, volume, mass and surface area,” among others, Pinar said.

Pinar, who plays golf and basketball, said he plans on a career as an architect or an engineer.

“I was always better working with numbers than with words,” he said.

Gilboy, whose father is also a math teacher at CMS, said the pressure to perform well can sometimes be stressful, but his father always come through to help him out when things get tough.

He plans a career in chemistry or physics, which combine the use of words and numbers, Gilboy said.

“Mrs. Jensen is a really great teacher,” Gilboy said. “She challenges us and treats us special. She gives us harder work.”
Competing in MathCounts is a way for students to show how well-rounded they are, Jensen said.

“It shows their strengths in other areas besides sports,” she said.

Jensen would like to see more local schools compete, but said she is having trouble persuading other programs to participate.

The only area school to compete at regionals this year was CMS, which hosted the competition with schools from Flagstaff, Kingman and Wickenburg. Prescott, Prescott Valley, Sedona and Camp Verde schools were invited but did not take part, she said.

“Next year, I’d like to see the competition so big we have to move it into the cafeteria,” she said.

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