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    Annual Math Steeplechase to Host Record Number of Contestants

    Mar 23, 2011

    Nearly 900 children from nine Stockton-area schools and surrounding areas will converge at the Alex G. Spanos Center on April 8 to crunch numbers. They will be here for the seventh 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. Parents are invited to watch the event, but are asked to not distract the children or blurt out answers.

    This year's steeplechase will be the largest ever with three hundred more participants than last year. The event also will include students from Sacramento and Modesto, the first year that the event has expanded to schools outside of San Joaquin County.

    "The Math Steeplechase has continued to grow in San Joaquin County and now beyond," 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 teams of five to six. Each team 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 and the Benerd School of Education.

    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 seven 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 three years ago and now teaches math as an elementary school teacher.

    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.