Morgan Hill Math

by Kelley Barnes
The MATHCOUNTS Coyote Valley Chapter Competition is about to begin.

The 2019-2020 school year ended like no other for Morgan Hill Math, when we had to adapt to distance enrichment. Morgan Hill Math is an outreach program sponsored by the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM), which provides free math enrichment activities to about 300 students each year, who live in or near Morgan Hill. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, some of our programs were cut short, new opportunities were offered and embraced, and upcoming programs may need to be put on hold. The three fall of 2019 programs, Mathletics, MathCounts6, and the MATHCOUNTS recreation training were all unaffected. This year’s MATHCOUNTS Chapter competition was held pre-shutdown. However the MATHCOUNTS State competition had to be reconfigured. Happily, most of our students were able to complete all five of the Math Olympiad contests. Most families are introduced to Morgan Hill Math through Mathletics and MathCounts6. By working with the Morgan Hill Unified School District in the spring of 2019, advanced math students in third through fifth grade were identified and invited to try out for a spot in the fall 2019 math enrichment programs. Last fall, our youngest students, fourth- and fifth-graders enrolled in our eight-week Mathletics program, enjoying lessons that included learning to play Sudoku and KenKen, discovering pi, exploring angles, areas and perimeters, and practicing problem solving strategies such as working backwards, making lists, and making tables. Students in MathCounts6 were introduced to more advanced problem-solving concepts including counting in other bases, problem posing, proportions, permutations and combinations; all skills that are necessary for successfully competing in the MATHCOUNTS competition series. The cornerstone of the Morgan Hill Math program has always been training for and competing in MATHCOUNTS. On campus, MATHCOUNTS training is now available at five local Middle Schools: Britton, Charter, Jackson, Murphy, and Oakwood.

This year, over 75 students, from eight local schools, trained with me once a week, from September through December, sharpening their skills in counting, series and sequences, probability, permutations and combi-nations, functions, algebra, and geometry. In January, 51 students came together and continued to train all together, to prepare for the chapter competition. These sessions were held at Ann Sobrato High School where older students who had previously competed in MATHCOUNTS, volunteered to help coach these mathletes. 

A Morgan Hill Math Mathletics class.

Morgan Hill students competed in the MATHCOUNTS Coyote Valley Chapter Competition, held in Morgan Hill, on February 1, 2020. This year’s competition was fierce! Oakwood School ended Martin Murphy’s three-year reign by beating them in the team round. Charter School came in second and Murphy was third, with less than a point separating the three teams. The four students from the Oakwood team, as well as Henry McNamara from Charter and Roma Shah from Murphy, who came in First Place and Second Place in the Individual Rounds, qualified to compete in the Northern California MATHCOUNTS State Competition to be held at Stanford, on March 23. These six students were so excited to compete at the state level! However, the CA state competition was not to be. The state-wide shutdown cancelled the in-person state competition. Two local schools competed in the weekly Math Madness competition in the fall of 2019: Sobrato High School and Martin Murphy Middle School. As a joint initiative between American Mathematics Competitions (AMC) and AreteLabs, Math Madness is emerging as one of the premiere math competition events in the United States. Murphy did very well by making it to the finals in their division! 

Students from a MathCounts6 class complete the SET universe!

In the fall, enthusiastic students from grades four through eight were invited to participate in the Math Olympiad for Elementary and Middle School (MOEMS). From November to March, over 125 kids were challenged to strengthen their problem-solving skills in this once-a-month, five-question test. Most of the Morgan Hill Math students were able to complete all five contests before the shelter-in-place started. One Morgan Hill student, Henry McNamara, won the George Lenchner Medallion for achieving a perfect score in the Middle School division! Only 0.5% of the nearly 170,000 participants received this award. Our Middle School and High School Mathletes participated in several other competitions this year. All students involved in the weekly MATHCOUNTS training classes, as well as interested fifth and sixth graders, took the AMC8, an MAA competition for students in eighth grade and below. Many of them also challenged themselves and joined high school students in taking the AMC10 exam. By scoring in the top 2.5% in the United States and Canada on the AMC10, two local students, Neil Shah (10th grade) and Ethan Fang (9th grade), qualified to take the American Invitational Mathematics Exam (AIME), which is the first in a series of examinations that culminate with the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). Several students took the four-hour Bay Area Math Olympiad in February. And two teams of six students competed in the online Purple Comet! Math Meet. The Math Club from Live Oak High School held a Math Mardi Gras for third-grade students who attend Barrett Elementary School. These high-schoolers had a wonderful time working with the third-graders and leading them through math activities. The youngsters enjoyed exploring the games and earning mardi gras beads for their accomplishments. It is so heartwarming to see these Morgan Hill Math alumni giving back to their community and spreading the joy of math to Morgan Hill’s future mathletes! The Morgan Hill Math Teachers’ Circle is still growing. Local math teachers in any grade can attend monthly meetings to explore rich math problems, rediscover the joy in learning math, and network with fellow teachers and mathematicians. Meetings were held on the last Wednesday of the month, at the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center. We were able to hold five meetings over the course of the school year where we delved deeply into several Julia Robinson Math Festival (JMRF) activities such as Random Walks, Puppies and Kittens, and Cup Jumping. We also explored non-euclidean geometry by constructing Hyperbolic soccer balls, and compared the game of Criss Cross to platonic solids. The Morgan Hill Math Teachers’ Circle is part of the Bay Area Teachers and Mathematicians (BAT Math) Network. The whole world changed this past spring. Suddenly all the students were at home. Teachers were learning how to teach remotely. Parents were learning how to homeschool. Families were desperate for additional activities. The online math community responded wholeheartedly! The Morgan Hill Math website now has a Math Activities page with links to multiple online activities. Math Olympiad provided two problems a day for the first six weeks of the shelter-in-place that were forwarded to interested families. There are links to the JRMF games that are being highlighted each week. KenKen puzzle sets are updated weekly. And AIM’s site is available. The most popular new program came from AreteLabs who coordinated a free online math meet. Over 70 Morgan Hill Math kids competed with thou-sands of other kids in either the Elementary or Middle School division. We competed against teams from all over the country, every week. After each match, I held a Zoom meeting to go over the questions and solutions. When the official tournament was over, the students wanted to continue. So we held weekly competitions between the Morgan Hill teams. Some students also joined me in May for MATHCOUNTS mini lessons, where we watched videos and completed worksheets provided by MATHCOUNTS. Since the MATHCOUNTS State Competition had to be cancelled, The Art of Problem Solving website held a MATHCOUNTS Week where everyone was invited to take the competition online. We do not yet know what the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year will look like. Our Mathletics, MathCounts6, and MATHCOUNTS classes are usually held in borrowed classrooms after school. These pro-grams may need to be reconfigured to go online, or put off for a few months. Morgan Hill Math will adapt, just like all of us have, and will continue to provide math enrichment for our future mathematicians, engineers, doctors, researchers, and more. 

Competitors from the 2020 MATHCOUNTS Coyote Valley Chapter Competition.

Find this article and the rest of this AIMatters 2020 issue here.

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