Is Math Cool? Darn Tootin'!

If you stop by Harbor School on Thursdays between 3PM and 4PM, you may be surprised to find a group of students gathered around the front whiteboard in the Language Arts classroom mulling (and laughing) over advanced math problems, defending their solutions to each other, and prompting their peers for more detailed explanations of the formulas and diagrams they have produced.  And if you ask one of the students “Why on Earth would you want to stay after school on a Thursday to talk about math,” that student may simply reply, “Math is Cool.”

math is cool“Math is Cool” is a regional mathematics competition for students in grades 4-12 that provides an opportunity for students with a love of math to compete against students from other schools in group and individual contests. Every Thursday, Harbor School’s middle school math teacher, Ethan Cudaback, leads a group of 10 students (one 5th grader, five 6th graders, two 7th graders, and two 8th graders) through a series of grade-appropriate advanced math problems intended to prepare them for an upcoming competition in February. While students are grouped based on their grade-level, it’s not uncommon for the 6th graders to try one of the 8th grade challenge problems, and for an 8th grader to try a 7th grader problem, or for all of the students to try the same problem! 

Some of the students who meet after school on Thursdays love math, but have no interest in competing… AND THAT’S OK! The after-school session has become a kind of low-stress math gathering for kids who simply want to know more about the subject, and who want to explore challenging mathematical material. All the students “train” in the same way, and those who would like to be able to compete in February will have an opportunity to do so.

Even after the competition passes, Harbor School's after-school math sessions will continue, just like the love of math for the students involved.