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Mathematics Contest Has a Message: Number-Crunching Is Fun and a Valuable Skill

Feb 16, 2014   |   by Aimee Caruso   |   Valley News

The final round of yesterday’s math contest put two students at a time in the "hot seats," trying to best each other on a series of timed questions. But they weren't the only ones figuring. Although they weren’t competing in the round, dozens of other "mathletes" at the Lebanon Regional MATHCOUNTS Meet also tried their hands, some "writing" on the tables using their fingers, others tapping away on calculators. The auditorium at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering was so quiet that the merest creak of a chair seemed startling.

Grace Li, a Richmond Middle School student, was one of eight students who made it into the "countdown" round. At first, it seemed Li couldn't be beat, coming up with correct answers so quickly that the crowd gasped. But after holding the lead against several competitors, she was bumped by Justin Liu, of Cardigan Mountain School. Liu was unseated by another student, and on it went until Li's teammate, Mindy Wu, won the round.

Mindy Wu, 13, of Richmond Middle School, smiles in relief as she is announced the winner of the MATHCOUNTS Lebanon Area Regional competition at Thayer School of Engineering in Hanover, N.H., on Feb. 15, 2014. Wu scored highest in the written test, and answered three questions correctly in front of an audience to win first place and be guaranteed a spot in the state competition. Photo by Sarah Priestap.

The contest, rescheduled after last week's snowstorm, drew more than 40 students from Grafton and Sullivan counties. For many local schools, yesterday marked the first day of winter break. But as fat snowflakes fell outside, homeschoolers and public and private school students alike spent the morning, pencils in hand, tackling math problems.

The competition, which includes arithmetic, algebra, geometry and calculus, is sponsored by MATHCOUNTS, a national coaching and competition program that promotes middle school achievement in math. The organization represents a team effort between school teachers and engineers.

"The engineering and science professions realize that we need to encourage kids" to get into math, said Len Zabilansky, of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

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