‘Mathletes’ from all over hit town

Published on Thu, Apr 5, 2001 by Soren Velice

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‘Mathletes’ from all over hit town

By Soren Velice

More than 1,600 students from 175 schools around the state swarmed the school campus to add it all up at Blaine’s 17th annual Washington State Math Championship Saturday, March 31.

“When you go out to an athletic event and you feel the excitement – that’s here,” said Gary Goodman, Tosco Refinery plant manager, before the awards ceremony. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the air.” As if to punctuate his remarks, the entire gym erupted each time an award was given out.

“We emphasize competition with the knowledge bowl and sports, but there isn’t much for math,” middle school vice principal and m.c. Jeff Coulter said. “This event highlights the school district’s emphasis on academics.”

To make it to the awards ceremony, each of the more than 400 teams of fifth- through eighth-graders went through a rigorous test schedule that included algebra, geometry, probability and mental math. Blaine fielded three teams in each grade. “Geometry was pretty fun; probability was pretty fun,” fifth-grader Zeenat Ali said.

“One of the worst was algebra,” responded teammate Eric Kodama. “But at least I’m not at home playing Nintendo.”

“If we learn just one thing, it’s still a success,” Kodama’s brother and teammate Michael said. “We’re in the high math class in school,” sixth-grader Belinda Crowson said. “We’re trying to get better at this.”

“Our industry has a lot of engineering,” Goodman said. “Everything we can do in the community to stimulate that in people helps; we use that kind of math and it helps get high paying jobs.”

Ian Sitko, a member of one of the fifth-grade teams, recognized the value of that approach. “Most jobs, you need to know math,” Ian Sitko said. “My dad uses math all the time.”

John Dougan, who coached the fifth-graders with high school student Bryan Chang, said he hopes the experience will give them a taste of the adult world. “I hope they get a sense of working hard,” he said. “I think they’ll get a lot of work ethic out of it, a sense of working under pressure.”

He said although Blaine’s highest finish was the fifth-grade team of Danny Dougan, Patrick Mulholland, Garrett Swearinger and Mike Broyan’s 12th place, they should be proud. “I think they should be really happy,” he said. “These kids should all be commended for the extra work they did to compete at such a high level.”

The refinery sponsored this year’s competition with a monetary contribution of $5,000, while more than 40 Tosco employees gave their time to oversee testing, correct the answers and compile results. “If you’re going to contribute to the community,” Goodman said, “education is a strong way to do it.”

Coulter was thankful for all the event’s supporters, such as coaches Dougan, Heather Jones, Nancy Fulcher and Anne Abrams; Tosco, Pemco Financial Services, who sponsored a laser show presented while results were compiled and all the volunteers.

“It takes 170 volunteers to put this on,” Coulter said. “We couldn’t do it without the support of the community.”

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