The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

May 6, 2013

First-graders ready to tackle math challenge


DANVILLE — First-graders from all of Danville’s elementary schools will tackle story problems, progressive computation, multiplication, fractions and even algebra at the second annual First-Grade Math Challenge.

The challenge will take place 9:30-10:30 a.m. Friday in the Bremer Conference Center at Danville Area Community College, 2000 E. Main St.

Last year, the First-Grade Math Challenge — created by Southwest first-grade math teacher Rena Pate — debuted at the Southwest Elementary School cafeteria. First-graders from Southwest and a few from Cannon school participated in last year’s challenge.

The challenge relocated to a larger venue this year to accommodate nearly 70 first-graders from all eight elementary schools in the district.

Pate said not only was a larger venue needed this year, but having the challenge at the community college presented additional opportunities.

“Any time we can talk to the kids about going to college, it gets them thinking about the future,” she said.

The competition is meant to be a fun way for youngsters to be exposed to the common core standard mathematical practice, which requires students to be able to make sense of math problems and persevere in solving them.

Students no longer are on a quest for the correct answer but must also be able to explain their thinking and processes for problem solving, Pate said.

In addition, the idea behind the competition is to have the first-graders try math problems they normally wouldn’t do.

During the hour-long challenge, first-graders will compete in 23 teams of three and have five minutes to answer each of the 10 different kinds of story problems or math questions.

With the additional children in this year’s competition, Pate said she thought about increasing the number of children on each team but decided “it seems to work out better with three.”

Working cooperatively, the children are encouraged to use a variety of processes including drawing pictures or using manipulatives, a number line or hundred chart, or a part-part-whole box.

Teams will have time to plan and discuss their answer, and a speaker from each group will present the answer and explanation to that team’s judge using a microphone.

Youngsters are awarded one point for obtaining the correct answer and an additional point for explaining how they arrived at the correct answer.

“To get the bonus point, they have to explain their answer,” Pate said.

Final scores will determine what level the team is awarded at the conclusion of the competition. Teams are eligible to score at the championship level if they have collected enough bonus points, making it possible for all participating teams to achieve championship level.

During the championship level, the teams have to answer five more questions to receive a purple ribbon to take back to their school, Pate said.

All of the children who participate in the challenge will receive a red, white and blue medal Friday morning.

Pate’s idea to create the challenge was based on her book published last year, “When Do Dandelions Become Weeds? A Primary Guide for Problem Solving.” The mathematical problems in Pate’s book are designed to challenge students to complete more complex and multistep story problems.

Friday’s competition will provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate and reflect on what they learned this school year.