High School Math Skills Contest

Magical Math"Magical Math" Comes to COCC's High School Math Skills Contest

by Charlie Naffziger, Mathematics Department Chair

This month, COCC's Math Department will host 120 students from 12 local high schools for a day of "Magical Math."

For more than 35 years, the annual high school Math Skills Contest has been a spring term highlight for COCC's math department. While the math problems, theme and students change each year, the focus of the event remains constant - it's all about engaging students and having fun.

During the event, students are divided into teams by high school and enjoy a little friendly competition. Students participate in events such as the Problem Solving Challenge, Scavenger Hunt, Math Jeopardy, Solve that Problem and Math Relay. Students use math skills ranging from estimation to integral calculus.

What I love most about the contest is meeting all of the high school students. High school math faculty advisors select teams and it's not just the very best math students who are invited to participate. The contest is designed for multiple levels of ability and many students are selected for participation because they may benefit from the recognition and involvement. This is an opportunity to build teamwork among strong students and those who may be less confident, or less motivated, when it comes to math. The spirit of the day is to generate excitement that transfers back into the classroom.

Our math faculty members spend hours preparing for the contest and their hard work pays off on the day of the event. To witness more than 100 high school students cheering each other on while doing mathproblems, to a level usually reserved for sporting events, well, it makes our "inner math geek" hearts swell with pride.

As department chair, I also have the honor of writing the "Turkey Test." This short but challenging quiz is designed for the high school math instructors who attend the event. Teachers who fail to participate risk public ridicule and a treasurable prize is awarded.

During the competition students take quizzes within their course level. Those with the top scores in top four levels are invited to the state math contest, held this year on May 16 at the University of Oregon.

We are pleased to be able to continue to waive the registration fee for this event due to generous support from Bend Research Inc. and COCC. Bend Research understands the importance of education and the vital role high schools play in the development of our youth. All students receive a contest T-shirt, award certificate and enjoy a barbecue in the Coats Campus Center.