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24 Math Challenge builds confidence

For the second year running, students with the Union County Public Schools had an opportunity to show off their mental math skills in the highly competitive 24 Math Challenge.
The competition, held recently at East Union Middle School, brought 120 students from the system’s eight middle schools to compete for the title of 24 Math Challenge Champion.
This year, Sun Valley Middle School eighth grader Claudia Ochoa walked away with that title. “I'm really excited that I won,” she said holding her trophy. “I really have a good time playing 24. I study (the game) a lot.”
To compete, students have to find multiple ways to get the number 24, using the four numbers on a card that is placed in front of them. “They can add, subtract, multiply and/or divide,” said event organizer Artez Watts, UCPS Middle School Math Curriculum Coordinator. “There are single-digit cards and double-digit cards.”
Watts said the competition helps with a student’s mental math, computation skills and for some, the competition is a real confidence booster.
The contest is based on mental math rather than using a calculator or written problem solving. “It’s patterns,” Watts said. “They’re looking at four digits (numbers) on a card and they have to use each one of those digits only once. They add, subtract, multiply or divide those four digits to get 24.”
The cards are placed in front of four students and the first student to come up with the solution to the card touches it. If the answer is correct, the student takes the card and places it in front of him. The proctor then puts the next card into play. Each card gains points for the winning student.

There are four rounds of play during the competition. Points won by each student in Rounds One and Two are added to determine who advances to the Semi-final Round Three.
Semi-final Round Three and then the final Round Four are “face-off” rounds, with the highest scoring student at each table, advancing forward. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded during the various phases of competition, with one overall winner taking the 24 Game Challenge Trophy.

During this year’s competition, which started with 120 contestants from the system’s eight middle schools, students competed until there were only four remaining: Claudia Ochoa and Rheinhardt Beeslaar, both from Sun Valley Middle School; Daniel Smith from Piedmont Middle and Lauren Miller from Weddington Middle. All won gold and silver medals, but Ochoa was named the champion.
Watts said that students work hard to prepare themselves for the competition each year. “Some of our schools even have clubs where the students stay after school to practice,” she said. “Quite often, you’ll go into a school and see students either playing 24 in a group or studying the cards by themselves. It’s exciting to see students doing math that they don’t ‘have’ to do.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Apr 24, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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