Splash photo by Tammy Kimberley

Fifth grade students feverishly figure and compare answers during a Math is Cool practice.

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In the March Wave: Figuring Fanatics
2/26/2014 10:56:52 AM

LLES team tries for another Top 10 finish

By Tammy Kimberley
Splash Staff Writer

As the end-of-the-day bell rings and most students head out the doors, several Liberty Lake Elementary fifth graders excitedly gather in a classroom, chattering and pulling completed math sheets out of their backpacks. A combination of candy, conversation and ideas fly through the air as the Math is Cool Wednesday afternoon practice begins.

In the midst of the laughter and chitchat, student explained their work to one another and discovered how there is often more than one way to solve a math problem. Coach Brian German has been leading the weekly practices since November to prepare the students for the Math is Cool 5th grade competition on March 7 at Mt. Spokane High School. 

For these students, the team's practices provide a way to challenge themselves and be around other like-minded math maniacs. They hope their diligence will pay off with a top finish at this month's competition. 

Cooper Young, who placed 7th overall in last year's competition, said his coach and teammates push him to be his best. He said they even had to do problems to earn their team T-shirt.

"If we get a problem wrong, the coach teaches us the right answer," the 10-year-old said. "We've learned we have to work together as a team."

One of his team members, 10-year-old Avery Auth, said she loves math because it allows you to take two things and somehow make something different. It also has helped her build on her existing math skills. 

"Being part of the team can help you improve your math grade in regular class as well," Avery said. 

Coach German, who stepped up this year to fill a coaching void, said he is using study sheets from previous coaches to challenge students during their Monday and Wednesday afternoon practices. He said working with the kids, which includes his daughter Kelsie, keeps him on his toes.

"I literally get to live ‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?' twice a week," he said.

In addition, German said two local high school students, who are experienced math team members at their schools, have put time in helping the team prepare for the competition which consists of individual and team testing. Individual questions vary from multiple choice to open-ended problems, while team events include relays, mental math and college bowl rounds. 

William Reese, 11, said he loves calculating numbers and always has numbers in his head. Being part of the team has helped him get ahead in school and learn "a million times more" than he knew before. Even though he was nervous attending last year's competition, he said it's not so bad once you start doing the problems. 

"And it's really fun comparing your skills to smart kids in other schools," he added. 

Coach German said they expect around 30 schools to be represented at the Math is Cool competition, but the actual number of teams participating is higher due to many schools having multiple teams. Last year, one of the LLES fourth grade teams finished second and two individuals were in the Top 10. 

"This year, first place would be cool," Elise Daines, 11, said. 

Coach German agreed it would be nice to see as many individuals as possible in the Top 10 but added the following sentiment:

"I just want them to do their best."

• • • 

Math is Cool 5th grade 
Liberty Lake Elementary team
Avery Auth, Mohkam Brar, Andrew Brockbank, Samuel Brown, Elise Daines, Kelsie German, Garrett Packebush, William Reece, Jane Romney, Anna Sattler, Miles Stewart, Kami Twining, Cooper Young and Maci Young
Coach: Brian German
Helpers: Brandon Carlson and Ansh Sehgal