Five middle schoolers make it to State Math Counts competition
For most of the season, Math Counts coach Elizabeth Rasmussen felt that her team wasn’t living up to its potential and finishing as high as it could when it was working at its best.
But those feelings were pushed aside after the New Richmond Middle School Math Counts team finished third at the Eau Claire regionals, which qualified it for the state competition on March 1, in Madison.
“The kids were all pretty shocked that we did so well at regionals because we hadn’t done very well before that as a team,” said Rasmussen, who coaches the team along with seventh-grade teacher Ryan Schradle. “We have placed OK, but we still didn’t think we would be headed to state as a team. We have been trying to do better at putting together our best students to get the highest scores we can, because that makes a big difference since all of their individual scores make up the team score.”
The New Richmond team, which is made up of Shawna Larson, Nick Andersen, Austin Raymond and Ben Karno, will travel to state along with Herbie Struss, who made it to the state competition as an individual competitor. The middle school team took part in multiple competitions throughout the school year, including meets at Rice Lake and Hudson.
“Herbie was in the top six final scores who was not part of a team, so that is why he is getting to go to state as well,” Rasmussen, who teaches math at the high school, said. “So, he made it by himself and that is why we have five people going to state since we have four from the team and Herbie made it as well.”
Along with the team performing well at regionals, team captain Shawna Larson also finished with the highest score in the individual rounds and ended up taking second place at the competition.
“She didn’t get first overall because in the countdown round you have to answer a certain amount of questions and you have to be the first to get three right. Shawna was tied with another student at two questions correct, but then the other student got a third and took the top overall spot. So, she got a second place trophy,” Rasmussen said.
At the competition, the New Richmond students took part in four separate rounds, including the individual sprint round, target round, the team round, where the four team members must solve 10 problems in 20 minutes, and the countdown round.
“Usually, the team captain, which has been Shawna for the most part, organizes the questions so that two work together and the other two work together for the team round,” Rasmussen said. “They have to solve all 10 problems and come to an agreement on all 10 then discuss which they didn’t know how to do. Then between those problems it is a matter of getting them down on one sheet of paper.”
The format will be basically the same when the students take part in the state competition, with the main differences being the level of difficulty of the questions the students are asked to solve and the speed at which the students are able come up with their answers.
“They do the same kind of stuff at state as they did at the regionals, with a sprint round, a target round, a team round and a countdown round,” Rasmussen said. “It will be very difficult and I’m interested to see how we do because I’ve taken a team there before from the last school I taught at and the speed at which they go at is very quick and faster than they have experienced before, especially during the countdown round.”
To help the students study for the state competition, Rasmussen gives them sample questions from past tests and sets up practice rounds for each event to prepare her team for what it will be like at state.
“I use problems from the past to help the kids study for upcoming meets,” Rasmussen said. “They have the tests on the Math Counts website that you can look at and practice with from past competitions. I kind of paste these together and I’ll do mock-Math Counts meets to get them ready for the competition part. Now I am trying to narrow our focus down a little bit to hit the topics that the kids struggled on at past competitions.”