The Math League is breaking into New Jersey — thanks to administrators at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County — and students throughout the state are eagerly preparing for the first official competition in March.
Nine schools, including SSDS in Marlboro, will enter up to three teams of four students each, from grades three-five. Students will compete in three rounds of 20 minutes each, in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, perimeter, remainders, integers, and more. The contest is provided by Math League, a Wisconsin-based organization that sponsors math tournaments throughout the country.
The tournament will be held on Pi Day, a national holiday commemorating the mathematical constant pi. Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 (3/14) since 3, 1, and 4 are the three most significant digits of pi in the decimal form.
For many years, SSDS has participated in a middle school math competition every October at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, regularly placing in the top five or 10 out of some 40 schools, said Linda Glickstein, director of admissions and marketing. This year SSDS missed the event because it fell on a Jewish holiday.
So school administrators decided to launch their own tournament, geared toward third- to fifth-graders, so as not to compete with CBA, Glickstein said.
“This is the first time the Math League is holding a tournament in New Jersey,” she said. “They are so excited to break into New Jersey and eventually hold state championships like they do in the Mid-west.”
The school invited 40 public and private schools to participate. As of press time, the following schools have registered: The Ranney School, Lincroft; Golda Och Academy, West Orange; St. Denis School, Manasquan; Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley, East Brunswick; Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, Livingston; Gerard Berman Day School, Oakland; St. Joseph School, Toms River; and St. Leo the Great, Lincroft.
Students from the host school are delighted to participate, said Monmouth SSDS head of school Yoti Yarhi. “The children feel such a great sense of pride showing off their school, and they are so excited to welcome their peers,” she said. “We have an excellent math curriculum, and the children will be given the opportunity to showcase their skills and challenge themselves.”
Collaborating with other schools may lead to partnerships in other academic programs, sports, or tzedeka projects, Yarhi said.
‘An exhilarating subject’
SSDS math teacher Ballari Chatterjee is meeting with team members twice a week until the competition to review Math League practice exams. “Math competitions demonstrate that math can be an exhilarating subject, bringing a sense of adventure to our students,” Chatterjee said. “Like sports, there is a certain level of excitement in participating with peers who have similar interests and talents. These competitions expose our students to a realm of real-world problem solving. This enhances their math foundation and boosts their confidence.”
When Golda Och Academy in West Orange — also a Schechter school — received an invitation from SSDS to participate, they didn’t hesitate to accept, said Julie Schwarzwald, elementary math specialist. “Fifty students showed up to take the test, and we chose the top scorers.
“To participate in a competition outside our school is brand-new for us,” she said. “We are excited about the challenge and to meet other students in the area who share their excitement about math.”
Students on the Marlboro SSDS team seem to share the grown-ups’ anticipation of the competition. Fifth-grader Kylie Heering of Perrineville said she plans to concentrate on the sciences, and “math is a very important skill to becoming a scientist. This skill will help me complete my goal in my older years of life.”
And Samantha Salem, a third-grader from Marlboro, said she loves math “because it’s a subject that you’ll need for the rest of your life. It is also really fun and my favorite subject. It is amazing.”