A Math Standoff

PlanoStarCourier by Haley Rogers; hrogers@starlocalmedia.com

Texas’ and Oklahoma’s rivalry doesn’t exist only in the world of college football, but also in the world of math, as it turns out.

Think Through Learning, creator of the Think Through Math (TTM) web-based instruction system for grades 3 and up, has announced Texas as the winner of its fourth annual Red River Rumble, an eight-week competition to see who can successfully solve the most math problems.

More than 400,000 students from 2,000 schools across Texas and Oklahoma competed for bragging rights and pizza, and Texas schools came out ahead in weekly battle rounds and in “Teamwork” and “Evening and Weekend” bonus rounds.

Plano ISD’s Mathews Elementary School was on the list of those with classroom winners. The two selected teams who were top point winners included teacher Katey Harvey’s Math Rocks class of 26 students, which earned a pizza party celebration provided by Think Through Learning.

“I am very proud of this group of students,” said Mary Davis, instructional coach for Think Through Math for Plano ISD. “During the month of November, these students successfully completed 596 lessons. They attempted 6,816 problems and earned almost 300,000 points.  The points on Think Through Math can be used to design an avatar, work towards a class goal or to make donations to charities.

More importantly this month, however, these students helped the state of Texas beat Oklahoma for the fourth time in four years in the Red River Rumble.”

More than 365,000 students from Texas completed 44 million problems, and students spent nearly 490,000 hours on the Think Through Math program, including 75,000 hours spent outside of the traditional school day, done in their spare time.

According to Harvey, the state usually purchases the program for the school districts, but didn’t this year, so Plano ISD had to come through and purchase it for the district.

“It’s just an incredible program for the students because it helps meet them wherever they are at,” Katey said. “It gives them individual tests and virtual teachers who they can talk with.”

Mathews Elementary had somewhat of an edge in likely because of its math program Math Rocks, created by Julia Haun, elementary math curriculum coordinator. “She noticed about 10 years ago that there was a group of students who needed something totally different than other students,” Harvey said. “She collaborated with professors from UT Dallas to create this amazing math program in which the kids are challenged.

“They are so gifted mathematically that you couldn’t even excite them in a classroom because they are so above.”

The students use Think Through Math in the Math Rocks program, and they find it engaging and challenging. “I like it because it’s fun and competitive,” said Chenxi Xhang, a fourth-grader. “And I like Ms. Harvey’s class because she always says something funny when she’s teaching.”

Being a teacher of such mathematically gifted children can be a challenge in itself.

“I tell them, ‘I’ll work as hard as you do.’ They come in with questions, and we have to figure it out together,” Harvey said. “The TTM program is a great opportunity to creatively approach math at a very high level and at a very young age.”