Last year was the inaugural year for the Saint Bernard Chapter of Chi Alpha Mu Middle School Honor Society. Chi Alpha Mu stands for Creative Adventures in Mathematics and it promotes enjoyment and understanding of mathematics by middle school students. One of the goals of Chi Alpha Mu is to recognize middle school students at Saint Bernard School who are performing at a high level in mathematics.
In December, 14 students in grades 6-8 competed in their first national math competition, Math Madness, U.S. They were among the more than 200 teams and 14,525 students competing. The national online team-based math competition is held every fall and spring. Students go head-to-head with the other teams in the country in four weekly rounds, followed by a bracket tournament.
Faculty advisor Matt Donnelly was optimistic for the team this year, and it has performed above his expectations. Saint Bernard’s top five scoring students rank fifth, with 96.9 percent among the highest-scoring teams in the national standings.
Donnelly said many of the competitor schools have been participating in Math Madness for years and have experience at this type of contest. “Even if our students don’t win the tournament, they will be back next year with stronger skills and an awareness of how the competition works,” he said.
In the competition, students learn how to work on deeper level math problems that require not only knowledge of formulas, but a higher degree of critical thinking, analysis and an ability to use what he calls their “puzzle brain.”
“It’s not just knowing math but also how to do something with the knowledge you have and make sense of it,” Donnelly said.
The eighth-grade students participating in the competition are a year or two ahead of their peers in math. Donnelly also said the tournament is one way of encouraging students to continue their passion for math and prepare them for higher-level math studies offered at Saint Bernard such as the Philosophy of Space and Time, The Philosophy of Religion, and Philosophy of Math and Astrophysics.
Another goal that he has for the program “is to encourage students to consider careers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). All fields of study and work require an ability to think critically. ”
By Kimberly S. Hodges