Dublin Villager

Sells MathCounts team in state competition Saturday

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Math might not be popular to some, but for others it's worth spending one afternoon a week solving problems with teammates.

Four students at Sells Middle School have been meeting for an hour every Wednesday since October and their hard work won them a spot in the state MathCounts competition Saturday, March 9.

Nari Johnson, Alan Ding, Jackie Tu and Varun Sriram aren't the only Sells students who are on the school's MathCounts team.

Coach Jodi Van Vranken said between 25 and 30 students attended weekly practices that led up to the first competition pitting Dublin middle school students against each other in January.

"The math teachers do a lot of recruiting for me," said Van Vranken, an intervention specialist at Sells.

The team of four competed at a regional contest Feb. 16 at Columbus State Community College and earned a spot at state, with a group from Karrer Middle School finishing second.

"It was the Franklin County Regional (contest)," Van Vranken said. "There were close to 350 kids there. It's one of the largest regional chapters in the country.

"It's probably one of the toughest."

Dublin middle schools took 17 students to the regional contest and 14 placed in the top 25 percent.

"It was the first time Sells has ever been at the top," Van Vranken said.

Each MathCounts competition is divided into four parts: a sprint round in which students must complete 30 questions in 40 minutes without the use of a calculator, the targeted round that lets students answer sets of two questions in six minutes, a team round with 10 questions to be completed in 20 minutes and a countdown round between the top 16 students.

Ding competed in the countdown round at the regional contest and said it was the round that carries the most pressure.

Students compete in front of everyone and must buzz in first with the correct answer.

Ding has experience at the state level as a competitor there last year, and is considered team captain.

"Last year's questions were harder than usual," he said. "I did all the state rounds from 2004 and they get progressively harder."

MathCounts questions aren't easy addition or division questions.

One question stated the radius of a tire and asked how many revolutions it would take to travel 100 yards.

"They're tricks," Ding said.

"What you learn in MathCounts is different (from math class)," Johnson said. "It's like a game."

Tu, who fits MathCounts into a busy schedule of figure skating, piano and violin practice, said things learned at practice and competition do help in the classroom.

"It helps a lot with math," she said. "Geometry is easier."

"It helped when I took the SAT and ACT," Johnson agreed.

MathCounts has also brought different students together.

"I've made a lot of friends through the club," Johnson said.

Practices can get loud when students work together and teammates said it's much more relaxed than they expected.

"It's really different than I thought it would be," Johnson said.

"I thought it'd be really tense," Tu added.