Canby youth math team places at competition
A little known truth: Canby has a number of youth math teams. And one of those teams recently placed well at a competition.
Four Baker Prairie seventh grade students and nine Eccles fifth grade students attended a Perennial Math tournament on Dec. 9 in Molalla, along with more than 200 Oregon students in grades 3-8. The seventh grade team, comprised of Eris Peto, Hayden Prue, Eli Rupp and Maren Bowlsby, came away with the second place prize.
The competition involved some fun and games along with two math tests. The first is an individual test, which counts towards individual as well as team scoring, and the second part is a team test, for which students come together and work out problems.
"It takes some pulling apart, figuring it out and multiple steps," said Kathleen French, Clarkes Elementary principal, who helped bring the competition together.
Baker Prairie's medal earns them a spot in the Perennial Math national competition, which takes place online in April.
"...they've already won for being there and having that experience." -Sylvia Dean
But Sylvia Dean, founder of Perennial Math, likes to reassure all kids who come out to the tournaments, whether they win medals or not.
"Even if you're not a winner, we always emphasize to the kids that they are a winner just for being there, because less than 1 percent of the world's population will ever get to say they did a math tournament," Dean said. "So, they've already won for being there and having that experience."
Canby's math teams are led by Myron Peto, a parent volunteer who wanted to help challenge kids beyond the classroom setting. He currently coaches the Eccles fifth grade team and the Baker Prairie seventh grade team. Another parent, Andrey Chernishov, is now working with Eccles fourth-graders, and Chernishov's wife Anna will soon start work with sixth-graders.
They received a grant from the Canby Education Foundation to cover costs and competition fees.
One of their goals is to expand the program to other Canby schools, possibly even working towards a district-wide contest modeled after the Oregon Battle of the Books program.
"Someone would have to set up a program at another school," Peto said, "and it would either have to be a teacher or another parent who was willing to put some time into it. If they wanted to talk to me about how to do that, I'd be more than willing to talk to them about it."
The teams currently meet before school weekly. Their practice includes working on problems primarily using materials from Math Olympiad, which is a monthly math competition they participate in.
"I give [the problems] to them, I give them a chance to work on it, and then we go through the answers and we work through," Peto said. "Sometimes they find a right answer really quickly, and there's not much that I need to do. Sometimes I need to walk them through, it just depends."
The Math Olympiad competitions involve a written test that Peto then uploads to the website to determine the team's placement. Teams who place in the top 10 percent receive recognition.
"I think it's good to be in an environment where there's a whole bunch of other people who are excited about math." -Myron Peto
But Peto found the on-site Perennial Math competition to be a helpful change of pace for the kids.
"I think it's good to be in an environment where there's a whole bunch of other people who are excited about math," Peto said. "You know, everybody is into sports, which is great, and I think we rightly value involvement in sports, but it's nice to recognize other endeavors that aren't typically in the limelight."
Additionally, the on-site tournament offers Canby kids exposure to a broader base of excellent math students.
"Getting to compete with top students from various schools around the Portland metro area is a good experience for our Canby students," Peto said. "Doing well in that arena is a real confidence booster."
As a bonus, Peto and Chernishov came out on top in one of the parent competitions at the tournament.
And as another bonus, the kids on the teams are improving in math overall.
"The kids that are in now fifth grade that are doing it, they're getting better at the math Olympiad tests…but they're also doing really well and pushing more in their regular math classes," Peto said.
For teachers or parents who are interested in learning more about how to start up a math team, Peto can be reached by contacting the Baker Prairie Middle School office.