The masters of math

Published 12:52 pm Saturday, March 13, 2010

A spider is on a crack in a brick wall 400 millimeters above the ground. It climbs 520 millimeters straight up, 340 millimeters straight down, 200 millimeters straight up, and then straight down 210 millimeters. How many millimeters is the spider above the crack where it started?

Math whizzes, 125 of them, answered questions like these under tight time constrictions in the Austin High School gym Friday morning.

The 2010 Regional Math Masters 6th Grade Competition brought 25 teams from 15 schools to Austin to spend about four hours competing in critical thinking and problem-solving tests — both individually and as teams.

“They work for this all year. It’s a great way to enjoy math,” Janel Horner, executive director of Math Masters of Minnesota, said.

Math Masters was created in 1989 by Lewis Aase, an Austin-area veteran elementary school principal, and Julia Buchanan Espe, an experienced director of programs for gifted students, both of whom continue to serve on the board of directors.

The purpose of the program is to challenge fifth and sixth-grade students and their schools to use higher-order thinking skills and problem solving abilities, as well as to give recognition for academic effort and achievement.

Friday’s challenge included timed fact drills, individual testing rounds and team rounds.

The winners of the fact drill were Colten Mowers, Halverson Elementary School, Albert Lea, first place; Spencer Pannkuk, Halverson Elementary School, Albert Lea, second place, and Amy Sanderson, Sibley Elementary, Albert Lea, third place.

The winners of the individual event were Samuel Ware, Lakeview Elementary, Albert Lea, first place; Amy Richard, Kasson-Mantorville, second place, and Sly Zipse, Kasson-Mantorville, third place.

The winners of the team event were Kasson-Mantorville Team #2, first place; Halverson Elementary Team #1, second place; Byron Middle School Team #1, third place.

About 5,000 students, from 44 public and private schools, are scheduled to compete in Math Masters this year in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

The sample test question above in regards to the spider’s climb was taken from www.mathmastersmn.org. Unfortunately, an answer key was unavailable. Contact a sixth-grade Math Master for assistance.

Math Masters is supported by a variety of companies and foundations, including The Hormel Foundation, IBM, Best Buy and the Minnesota Society of CPA’s.