Ahern: Numbers add up for St. John Fisher students
By Patti Ahern Citizen Journalist/pattiRMA@aol.com May 31, 2012 1:08PM
St. John Fisher students who won iPads during a math competition. | Supplied Photo
Updated: July 6, 2012 8:45AM
Many people find test-taking stressful. But taking a test in front of classmates for the ultimate prize of an Apple iPad ramped up the stress level exponentially for St. John Fisher students from Chicago’s Beverly community.
Nearly 700 students tested their ability to handle stress, along with their math skills, during a competition that also served as a fundraiser. “Having ‘Sum’ Fun for Fisher’s Future” was one of several activities that raised money for the school’s technology program.
Students began their trek toward the test by earning points through Mathletics, a website that allows participants to gather points for correct answers on math problems assigned by teachers. Problems are specific to the material covered in class.
Also through the website, students can compete with mathletes in other countries.
Students were encouraged to have sponsors donate money based on the number of math points they earned.
The top three students with the most points in each classroom sat in front of their peers for the final test. Questions were projected on a screen and the test takers held up their answers.
In the end, the top scoring students won the iPads.
Brooke Monroe, the regional manager for Mathletics, said the program has a wide variety of activities that let students challenge their computational skills. The program is used in 12 countries.
Monroe said SJF students earned more points than any other school in the Mathletics program.
“About 640 students were competing and they earned 6 million points. To achieve 6 million in two weeks is really impressive,” Monroe said.
In addition to the math competition, the fundraiser at SJF included an online auction, where student artwork was put up for bid on the school’s website. Between the math competition and the auction, the school surpassed its goal to raise $30,000.
“In previous years, we have had walkathons to raise money,” Assistant Principal Pat Reed said. “By doing the math program, though, the children really benefitted (from the math practice).
“Our Family School Association met the other night, and they felt the competition was a big success. We did hear people asking where all the kids were in the neighborhood, because so many were inside doing math, so we may do this in February next year,” she said.
“This way, the children will have a warm-up for Terra Nova (standardized tests) in March, and when it’s May, the children can be outside instead of sitting at their computers,” Reed said.
“We have a lot of technology to keep in working order and replace as it gets older. (We have) 30 iPads, two large labs, a media center, library, laptops and multimedia projectors, and (will need) apps for the iPads,” she said. “It’s a costly program, and we’re so lucky to have such supportive parents and students to keep this program going.”
Sixth grade student Maura Gribble, 12, one of the iPad winners, said, “I practiced for two weeks. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it was also fun.”
Fifth-grade student Sophia Silba, 11, also an iPad winner, said, “It was really nerve-wracking, but it was fun, too.”
Eighth-grade winner Mitch Gribble, 14, said nervousness was not a big factor for him. He said he is having quite a bit of fun with the tablet.
“It hasn’t been put down yet,” Gribble said. “I thought (the competition) was really fun and it was a great opportunity to have. I wasn’t that nervous and just wanted to stay focused.”
Phil Sommerfeld, whose first-grade son Ryan won an iPad, said he was very nervous as he watched his son during the competition.
“I was way more nervous than my son. This was extremely exciting and good for him. He didn’t stop playing Mathletics, so it’s a good program and gets them doing math,” Sommerfeld said.
“I’m so proud of all our students who worked hard both individually and in their homeroom teams,” Reed said. “I’ve never witnessed such enthusiasm for a school-wide project. Who could have imagined solving math problems could be so rewarding to students?”
St. John Fisher School, located at 10200 S. Washtenaw Ave., offers preschool through eighth-grade classes. More information is at www.sjfschool.net.
Patti Ahern is a citizen journalist from the Beverly community. She can be contacted at PattiRMA@aol.com.