News Release, SMECO

Prince Frederick, MD- Middle-schoolers from throughout Southern Maryland enjoyed a fast-paced challenge of their math skills at the 26th annual regional MATHCOUNTS competition, hosted by Calvert Middle School in Prince Frederick on Saturday, February 1, 2020.

A competitive technological world requires proficiency in mathematics as a foundation for success in science, technology, and engineering. MATHCOUNTS aims to boost student interest in mathematics by making the subject challenging and entertaining. Each year, more than 500 regional competitions are held in middle schools across the country, with winners advancing to state competitions and then to the national competition.

According to its website, MATHCOUNTS alumni are more likely to continue with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with 3 out of every 4 alumni studying a STEM field in college—nearly three times the national average. And MATHCOUNTS builds the critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for success: 95% of teachers believe that MATHCOUNTS problems are effective at improving their students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

The local MATHCOUNTS competition features rounds of mathematics problems to challenge students one-on-one and as teams over the course of the three-hour event. First is the sprint round, a 30-question test that students complete individually. The competitors go next to the target round, where they have four sets of math problems and six minutes to complete each set of two questions.

In the individual competition, which is based on combined scores in the sprint and target rounds, Ivan Chiu from Spring Ridge Middle School in St. Mary’s County finished first and Barbara Kaczmarek from Northern Middle School in Calvert County finished second. Kaczmarek was a member of the winning team from her school in the 2019 competition.

The top 12 scorers finish the competition by facing each other in the countdown round, a single-elimination bracket-based tournament in which students must respond verbally to questions in a matter of seconds. Barbara Kaczmarek from Northern Middle School placed first and Ivan Chiu from Spring Ridge Middle School placed second.

In the team round, foursomes of students answer 10 questions in 20 minutes. Teams from Calvert County middle schools placed in the top three. Northern Middle School won first place; team members included Luke Erly, Steven Vilcheck, Grace Wood, and Sam Zolfaghari, coached by Carole Butler. Mill Creek Middle School placed second; team members included Drew Bishop, Melvin Cheng, Billy Clay, and Elena Saucedo, coached by Michelle Gregory. Plum Point Middle School won third place; team members included Brandon Chrones, Andrew Lamb, Aidan Moreland, and William Parsons, coached by Jonathan Moreland. The team from Chesapeake Public Charter School in St. Mary’s County took fourth place and Piccowaxen Middle School in Charles County took fifth place.

Sponsors for the local MATHCOUNTS competition are SMECO and the Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s County public schools, with the support of the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Volunteers from SMECO helped score the tests. One of the volunteers was Myrna Rivera, administrative services supervisor, who competed on a MATHCOUNTS team while in middle school. “The event that I participated in was very intense and took place during the school day. It was very exciting, as math was one of my favorite subjects, but it was nerve-wracking at the same time,” Rivera said. “MATHCOUNTS was intense and super exciting! I loved every minute of it.”

Winners of the Southern Maryland chapter competition will go on to compete in the statewide contest at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The top four individual competitors from each state competition receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the national competition in Orlando, Florida, in May.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...