Math Beyond the Classroom
by Meggen Stockstill, Middle School Math Teacher
Math is hard. It challenges us to think and can be frustrating, but it can also be fun and incredibly rewarding when we solve a particularly complicated math puzzle. At Harbor Day, we celebrate mathematics not only for its importance to our student’s education but also for the joy our students feel as they reach correct answers to difficult problems. Challenging our students in mathematics and building confidence is a cornerstone of Harbor Day’s teaching in the math classroom.
Harbor Day has many bright, talented mathematicians, and we offer opportunities for students to pursue their growth and enjoyment of mathematics beyond the classroom. One of the most popular clubs at Harbor Day is our Middle School Math Club, which meets weekly at Monday recess. Students eagerly attack math problems amidst friendly competition, and they feel pride as they explain their reasoning to their fellow club members. The human brain loves puzzles, as evidenced by the popularity of crossword, Sudoku, and Wordle puzzles. So it is no wonder that Math Club draws interest from all sorts of math students: the timid thinker, the impulsive adventurer, or that student who just wants to take a chance on math without fear of getting the wrong answer or a bad score. All are welcome at Math Club and have a really good time while growing their brains in an important way. This club is a starting point for our students to see that math can be fun, and it is dedicated to fostering a love of math in our students.
In addition to Math Club, this year our students have participated in many outside tournaments and contests to enrich their mathematical experience:
In November, two of our fifth graders, Victoria S. and Abby R., competed in the Orange County Thanksgiving Math Tournament, where they placed in both the Individual and Activity competitions.
This year we participated in the AMC 8 (American Mathematics Competition). This highly regarded national competition is the first rung on the path to the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). Harbor Day hosted the contest on January 18, 2023, and 31 of our middle school students took the challenge. Andrew W. was our school winner, and all the students enjoyed the opportunity to stretch themselves mathematically. If you want to get a taste of the AMC challenge, try to solve questions 1 and 15… Can you solve both of them? (Answers are given at the end.)
On February 11, we sent three teams of seventh and eighth graders to compete against other area schools at the Sage Hill Math Invitational. The categories of the competition were Mental Math, Algebra, Geometry, Number Theory, Brain Teasers, Engineering, and a Countdown Competition. Our eighth grade team placed first overall, and our seventh grade team came in third. Eighth grader Andrew W. won the Countdown Competition by answering questions quickly and correctly against students from other schools.
The regional MathCounts competition was held on February 18 at the University of California, Irvine. MathCounts is a challenging competition for middle school students that culminates in a national competition held in Washington, D.C., and is televised on ESPN. Some of our top math students came to compete against approximately 240 other “mathletes” from schools across Orange County. It was a great day, with our students tackling tough math problems, working together, and getting to explore a college campus. As one of our team members commented, “I can’t believe seven hours went by so quickly because it was so much fun doing math!”
At Harbor Day, math is important, challenging, and fun. This year, we have had many opportunities to pursue math beyond the classroom, and we are proud to be a community that embraces math! At Harbor Day, math is definitely COOL, and it is “Hip 2 B^2”!