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Annual Math Competition Draws Record Crowd

Apr 12, 2010

More than 600 children from eight Stockton-area schools will converge this week on the Alex G. Spanos Center to crunch numbers. They will be here for the sixth annual Math Steeplechase, a competition where fourth and fifth graders have to solve complex math problems in a matter of minutes. The event will start at 9 a.m. April 16. Parents are invited to watch the event, but are asked to not distract the children or blurt out answers.

This year also marks the start of another math competition at Pacific, a math challenge for area high school students. That event will be held next week.

"The Math Steeplechase has continued to grow in San Joaquin County and this year represents the most students and schools competing," said event organizer Gregory Potter, a professor in the Benerd School of Education. "We hope that this competition develops an interest in math for many of these students while also showing them that math can be fun."

During the Math Steeplechase, students are split into groups of five to six. Each group is then escorted to a table with props on it and a mathematical problem involving those props. They have 10 minutes to solve it as a group. Each group is then scored by a referee at the table. This year's Steeplechase is being hosted by Pacific's Athletics Department, the Benerd School of Education and Pacific's Ambassadors program.

To give the students a break during the day, they also will participate in a scavenger hunt on the Stockton campus. Additionally, the athletics department will have activities for the students during the day.

This event is meant to enhance critical thinking and math skills among elementary school students. The Math Steeplechase was established six years ago by Tara Runnels, a Pacific student who remembered a similar event when she was in high school and said it helped spark an interest in math for her. Runnels graduated two years ago and now teaches math as an elementary school teacher.

This isn't the only math challenge happening this month. At 9 a.m. April 24th, Pacific's Math Club will host its first High School Math Competition. It will conclude with an awards ceremony at 12:45 p.m. in the Biological Sciences Building, Room 101. Approximately 40 high school students from Stagg, Cesar Chavez, Edison and Ben Holt high schools have registered for the event.

The high school challenge will present students with questions involving Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-calculus, and Calculus.  High scorers for each exam will be awarded trophies during an awards ceremony. The awards ceremony is open to the public.

During the event, mathematics professor Christopher Goff will appeal to the lighter side of math by giving a presentation on mathematics and Hollywood, exploring the stereotypes of mathematicians in recent films.  Other aspects of the math department will also be showcased. 
For more information about this year's Math Steeplechase or to register a school for next year, call or e-mail Gregory Potter at 209.946.2672 or gpotter@pacific.edu.

For more information about the High School Math Competition or to register a school for next year, call or e-mail Christopher Goff at 209.946.2036 or cgoff@pacific.edu.