Mount Douglas Mathletes enjoying success by the numbers

Saanich Grade 9s walk away with top five spots in Island math competition

Jessica Sun writes out a math problem for a few of the members of the Mount Douglas Mathletes. (Dan Ebenal/News Staff)

For a growing number of Mount Douglas students the academic achievements are really starting to add up.

Mount Douglas students captured the top five spots at a recent Math Challengers competition open to Grade 9s from across Vancouver Island.

“They did absolutely phenomenal,” said math teacher Neal Johnson, who points to the flourishing math culture at the school.

That culture saw 150 Mount Doug students show up early for school one morning to take part in the University of Waterloo Math Contests.

“They could either sleep in or come to school and write a math competition,” said Johnson, who wasn’t surprised by the students’ enthusiasm.

Rafael Edora took top spot in the Math Challengers competition, calling it really fun.

“I really like how it’s all logical,” he said. “Solving equations using different logic and rules, it’s very satisfying.”

Edora and his fellow winning classmates benefit from the experience of some of the older students at Mount Douglas, with Grade 10 and 11 students working with the Grade 9s over lunch hour once a week. “They taught us a lot. That’s a really big reason why we did so well,” said Edora, adding it’s sometimes easier to process information coming from fellow students.

Johnson said many Grade 9s coming into a new school may question whether it’s cool to be really good at math.

“But with these senior students training the Grade 9s they’re totally enthusiastic about it. It makes it a lot easier,” he said.

The Grade 9s will now move on to the provincial competition in April, while the marks from the University of Waterloo contest – drawing students from across the country and around the world – have yet to be tallied.

The students also benefit from the support of the school’s PAC, which provided funds enabling the students to take part in the competition as well as for the purchase of T-shirts, reading Mount Doug Mathletes – You can count on us!

Grade 10 Jessica Sun is among the students to have taken this year’s Grade 9s under her wings, after she had been tutored by some of the older students last year.

“I just find it satisfying to explain a problem in front of a board,” she said, adding explaining it to others can help her understand it better as well.

Wenfei He says the part of math she most enjoys is having to analyze a problem in search of a solution.

“I just really enjoy the process of figuring out how to find the answer to a problem,” said the Grade 11. “It’s not even whether I get the answer right or not, it’s just learning how to do it.”

Grace Ciarniello is another Grade 11 student who has been working with the Grade 9s and was also among the early risers to take part in the University of Waterloo contest.

“You’re collaborating with lots of different students. You get exposure to things you normally wouldn’t see in the classroom. It’s just really interesting,” she said, adding the growing importance of technology is making math a more popular activity around the school.

“It’s no longer a nerd thing to do.”

While Johnson takes pride in the achievements of his students at this year’s competition and the growing collection of trophies won by Mount Douglas math students, he says the awards are not the most satisfying part of his job.

“The biggest win is when our students come back to see us from university and tell us how they’re doing,” he said. “Every single one of them I’ve spoken to so far, they’re absolutely killing it.”

editor@saanichnews.com

 

Neal Johnson

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