April 23, 2018
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Skills day teaches importance of math

By Leslie H. Dixon, Sun Journal

PARIS — Despite a mid-spring ice storm that forced school to close 90 minutes early on Friday and eliminated the much-anticipated team tower-building activity, fifth- and sixth-grade students said they not only learned a lot at the math-building skills day, but had a great experience.

“We are having a lot of fun,” said Russell Damon, a sixth-grade student who lives in Oxford. Damon and the other students were bused to the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School from the six elementary schools in the district early Friday morning for a series of arithmetic, geometry and other team and individual competitions.

“We were trying to connect math, science and technology,” said Curriculum Director Kathy Elkins, who along with David Stearns, TD Bank store supervisor and former SAD 17 elementary school math coach, supervised the meet.

The collaborative effort also included SAD 17 team manager volunteers, gifted-and-talented and math interventionists, Key Club volunteers and parent volunteers, creating what Elkins called “a real community effort.”

The annual in-house math meet was started several years ago to cope with budgetary constraints that prevented students from traveling to Portland for the Southern Maine Elementary Math Meet.

“Budgetary issues are still an issue,” Elkins said. “However, we found having a district-sponsored meet has more benefits.”

Among them is the ability to have all fifth- and sixth-grade students, who are housed at six elementary schools across the district, participate in a central location and interact with each other before middle school.

Since its inception, Elkins said the program has expanded beyond the three rounds of math competition questions (arithmetic, geometry and team) to also include a science, technology, engineering and mathematics presentation connecting math and science to STEM careers.

In addition, she said, there is a presentation around an engineering concept and then students work in teams to complete an engineering challenge.

Although this year the stormy weather prevented the students from participating in the engineering challenge, they had an opportunity to discuss math and science as careers.

Citing careers such as space scientists, architects, carpenters and computer technologists with average salaries ranging from $40,000 to well over $100,000, Elkins told the students math would be the bridge to their future.

Elkins said the need for mathematicians is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. And even if they aren’t mathematicians, students will use math in varying degrees all their lives.

A video showed students how mathematics was used to give a bald eagle a second chance after a hunter shot off its beak. A mechanical engineer developed a bionic beak that allows the bird to eat. The eagle’s upper beak is slowly regenerating, allowing her to eat on her own.

Students say they learned a lot from the math meet experience.

Dakota Paille-Sassa said he was able to use a lot of multiples during the days activities.

Others said they learned how to work as a team.

“I learned that five heads are better than four,” said Morgan Nichols of Oxford, who was able to see something in the competition about a square root that helped her team win.

Noah Stilton of Norway learned to think aloud, which helped him solve a problem easier than thinking to himself.

An awards ceremony took place at the end of the event.


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