HMS Math Meets team takes second in state

It isn’t that Homer Middle School students Denver Waclawski, Douglas Dean, Ben Kettle and Tim Blakely don’t already have very active lives. For starters, three of them play hockey, one is a cross country runner, they play soccer and are in band, choir, robotics and more.

Now, they can add one more accomplishment to that long list: the four-member team took second place in the statewide Math Meet competition held at University of Alaska Anchorage on Saturday. In individual scoring, Waclawski placed sixth, Blakely was seventh, Kettle was 10th and Dean was  28th. 

Just getting to the competition was a big step. Each middle school has its own process for choosing a team. In Homer, for example, about 40 kids participate in the MathCounts program during the year, with 10 of those students selected for the Math Meet. 

“So really overall, there are hundreds of kids who participate statewide,” said Sara Reinert, who, along with Rand Seaton, coaches the team. “To qualify for the state meet, the HMS team had to compete in the Anchorage Chapter Meet which took place in February. At that meet HMS competed against teams from eight other middle schools from the Anchorage area.”

The Anchorage Chapter Meet included 80 participants. In addition to the Homer team, the Kenai Middle School team helped represent the Kenai Peninsula School District. The results of that meet were Romig Middle in first, Homer in second and Rogers Park in third, with all three of them then qualified to move on to state competition.

Seven official four-member teams qualified for the state meet, plus about 12 individuals, for a total of “about 40 of the state’s top math students,” said Reinert. 

The competition is part of the nationwide MathCounts Program dedicated to mathematics enrichment for middle school students. 

“The top four individuals from the state of Alaska form a state team, which then participates in the national meet in May,” said Reinert.

Events at the state meet included an individual timed exam of 30 questions to be done without benefit of a calculator and requiring mental calculations and an understanding of mathematical formulas such as Pythagoras’ Theorem and how to find prime factorizations of very large numbers. The students had about a minute for each problem. A second individual, timed test posed eight, multiple-step calculations. A Team Round posed 10 more challenging problems.

Individual scores are averaged, with the team score added for the final ranking.

Romig Middle School took first place and Watershed Charter School from Fairbanks took third.

Reinert acknowledged local support of the MathCounts program by the faculty and administration of Homer Middle School and from Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage.

“The MathCounts program is supported at HMS as a math enrichment that takes place during the school day, as a supplement to the standard curriculum,” said Reinert. “The Kachemak Bay Campus has chosen to invest time and faculty resources in support of this enrichment.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.