After months of practices on Monday afternoons and Wednesday mornings, 13 Middle School students took a written test on January 16 to earn one of 10 spots on the FWCD MathCounts Team.
The official FWCD MATHCOUNTS Team comprises the following students:
Joaquin Castro-Balbi ’22, Henry Lynn ’21, Michelle Pham ’22 and Josh Wu ’23
The following students will compete as individuals:
Brennan Cox ’23, Vigna Lavu ’22, Matthew Lobo ’23, Andrew Nober ’21, Kelly Pham ’21 and Mark Wong ’22.
Middle School Math Teacher Rachael Swinhoe serves as the FWCD MathCounts Adviser. She spent 12 years teaching grades 6-12 and coaching volleyball, basketball and soccer in Wichita Falls. More recently, Rachael taught Algebra II and Pre-AP Algebra II and served as the Algebra II team leader at Fossil Ridge High School in Keller. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, Mathematics, from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and is currently a graduate student working toward an MEd in Curriculum & Instruction in Mathematics Education from the University of Texas at Arlington. Head of Middle School John Stephens felt that Swinhoe’s expertise in higher-lever math made her the perfect person to revive the School’s MathCounts Team.
The MathCounts Competition Series is a national program that provides students the opportunity to compete in live, in-person contests against and alongside their peers. Created in 1983, it is the longest-running MathCounts program and is open to all students in grades 6-8.
The competition series has four levels of competition—school, chapter, state and national. Each level includes four rounds—Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown. All together, the rounds are designed to take approximately three hours to complete. Below is a description of each round:
- Sprint Round: focuses on speed and accuracy. Students have 40 minutes to complete 30 math problems without a calculator.
- Target Round: focuses on problem-solving and mathematical reasoning. Students receive four pairs of problems and have six minutes to complete each pair using a calculator.
- Team Round: focuses on problem-solving and collaboration. Students have 20 minutes to compete 10 math problems using a calculator. Only the four students on a school’s team can be part of this round.
- Countdown Round: focuses on speed and accuracy. Students have a maximum of 45 seconds per problem without a calculator. (This round is optional at the school, chapter and state levels.)
Up to 10 students from each school advance to the local Chapter Competition, which takes place in February. FWCD’s Chapter Competition is Saturday, February 4, at Tarrant County College-Trinity River Campus. Each school can send a team of four students, plus up to six individual competitors, which is what Swinhoe opted to do. All chapter competitors—whether a team member or individual—participate in the individual rounds of the competition; then, just the four team members participate in the team round. More than 500 Chapter Competitions will take place in February across the country.
Top students from each Chapter Competition advance to their State Competition, which takes place in March. The top four individual competitors from each State Competition receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Competition, which takes place in May. These 224 students combine to form four-person state teams, and also compete individually for the title of National Champion.
Swinhoe began MathCounts “practices” in September, twice a week for 30 minutes. Usually 16-20 Middle School students would attend to strengthen their skills. “Those practices were not ‘drill and kill,’ rather they focused on problem-solving, working together, strategies and communication,” she said. “Many times it’s good for students to see how one of their peers solves a problem. There’s not always one way to get to the correct answer. The team round requires great collaboration and a mixture of skills.”
Pleasantly surprised by the energy the students brought to the practices, Swinhoe said, “You can tell the students just really want to be here and have a desire to learn.”
Swinhoe was not always a whiz at math. “I was actually a terrible math student in high school,” she admitted. “I never had a teacher who could explain it to me on my level.”
It wasn’t until Swinhoe was in college, majoring in nursing, that math started to click because of one professor: Dr. Hartzler. “He reached out to me and showed me what other teachers couldn’t,” she said. Swinhoe ultimately changed her major, and the rest is history.
“I want to show all students that math is attainable,” she said. “Finding the right person to help and mentor you is the key.”
The MathCounts Team competes in the Chapter Competition on Saturday, February 4, at Tarrant County Community College-Trinity River Campus. Good luck!