Math Olympics takes the calculation out of problems

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — To illustrate how important attending the Math Olympics pizza party was for 70 students, consider this: One boy cried at the thought he didn’t earn enough points for an invitation.

That’s how hard the children have worked, lead organizer and education advocate Peyton Wolcott said.

The Math Olympics, in its fifth year, helps elementary school students, learn math “automaticity” — addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables. For the first time, organizers gave medals to students who did “more than we expected of them.”

“You qualify for working throughout the school year,” Wolcott said. “A lot of times, they love to learn how to multiply and not so much addition and subtraction.”

By memorizing the tables, Wolcott said, children are eliminating some old-fashioned ways of getting the answer.

“They’re not adding with their fingers or looking at the ceiling (as they calculate),” she said. “It’s nice to be independent of technology and know those math facts.”

By learning the tables, the advocate said, children will immediately know the correct amount of change they’re due back when buying something.

“Once they have the math tables, they’ll always have them,” she said.

Walcott has witnessed how hard the children have worked at learning the tables, some for almost as long as the program has been in existence.

Cleo Helms (left), William Hardy, Diaz Beltran and Jeff Martich are proud of the medals they earned for learning more than they were expected, according to Math Olympics lead organizer and education advocate Peyton Wolcott.
Cleo Helms (left), William Hardy, Diaz Beltran and Jeff Martich are proud of the medals they earned for learning more than they were expected, according to Math Olympics lead organizer and education advocate Peyton Wolcott.

Math truly is the universal language of the world, she said, noting boy originally from Vietnam used the program to learn English.

Math Olympics started as a way to bridge a gap that was created because teachers are preparing students for state exams and were running out of time to drill students on mathematics tables.

And with volunteers Karen Wines and Shirley Dano, the trio created curriculum that’s been successful as evidenced by the number of children attending the party. Not all children who participated in the program earned enough to receive an invitation, Wolcott said.

As the party was wrapping up, Wolcott watched as each child found her to share how they’ve been using their new expertise.

“This is a skill they can learn that will enrich every part of their lives,” she said. “We teach them study lessons, we teach them life lessons.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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