Molalla not only hosted the tournament last weekend, but sent 70 Molalla kids to participate

Molalla River School District hosted more than 200 students in grades 3-8 for a Perennial Math competition last weekend at the high school, and a good portion of those were Molalla kids. One of the Molalla teams and a few individual students even came away with medals.

"We have three middle school teams and eleven elementary school teams from all of our schools," Superintendent Tony Mann said. "We have a total of approximately 70 students participating from Molalla alone."

SUBMITTED PHOTO: KATHLEEN FRENCH - Pictured are Molalla's students who participated in the Perennial Math competition on Dec. 9.

Perennial Math was founded by Sylvia Dean, from Huntsville, Alabama, who is a retired math coach and gifted teacher. She now travels around the country putting on math tournaments. This is the fourth Perennial Math competition held in Oregon and the third consecutive. Competitions have been held at Mt. Hood Community College in the past, but Dean decided to ask the participating teams if any of them would be willing to host.

"So we volunteered, and she took us up on our offer," said Clarkes Principal Kathleen French, who helped organize the Molalla tournament.

French wanted to host the tournament as a part of one of her goals for the district.

"One of my big goals for our district is just to create excitement around learning," French said. "There are so many great things that happen in the individual schools and I think there's a lot of strength when you pull all those individual good works going on and bring it together in a team environment."

She added, "That's the hugest motivator for me in being involved with the kids and teachers: is just to build that excitement around math, mathematical thinking and learning and creating momentum so that we keep pushing ourselves."

Dean was grateful to MRSD for the use of the facility and called the tournament "a super success."

SUBMITTED PHOTO: KATHLEEN FRENCH - Spectators filled the Molalla High School gymnasium on Dec. 9 for the Perennial Math tournament.

"It was great that Molalla opened their doors for us to make that possible," Dean said. "We had a huge turnout."

Molalla students made up nearly 30 percent of that turnout.

"This is our first year of having this many math teams," French said. "Every elementary school and the middle school are all represented."

That may be because Molalla opened the competition up to any and all students in third through eighth grades.

"One thing that I think is so important is that we always keep this open for all kids," French said. "I don't want to just target one population of students. I want students to feel like we can all be mathematicians. So when we promoted this in the different schools, the invitation was open to all."

Students prepared using in-school and after-school hours and using materials provided by Perennial Math.

The competition involves some fun and games along with the tests.

"We try to make it a fun day, and it's only a half day," Dean said. "We even try to make it fun for the parents…They take a parent team test while the kids are team testing, and we give the parents the actual fifth grade test to see if they're smarter than a fifth grader."

The test portion of the tournament is two-part. 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," French said.

On tournament day, a Molalla River sixth grade team came out with a third place medal. They were beat out by two teams from Access Academy, a school that ran away from the tournament with eight team medals across grades 3-8.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: KATHLEEN FRENCH - Molalla's third place sixth grade team includes from left to right: Christian Zannotti, Hazell Parker, Katherine Nunn, Kamila Bedolla and Marie Mason.

The members of that team were Christian Zannotti, Hazell Parker, Katherine Nunn, Kamila Bedolla and Marie Mason. Mason and Parker also tied with another student for third place individually. The medals earn both the team and the individuals a spot in the national championship tournament that takes place online in April.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: KATHLEEN FRENCH - Two of Molalla's sixth-graders also placed individually. Marie Mason (left) and Hazell Parker (middle) of Molalla RIver Middle School tied for third place with Simon Batt (right) of Access Academy.

But Dean likes to reassure all kids who come out to the tournament, 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."

Dean hopes to host a tournament at Molalla again next year.

Kristen Wohlers
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