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Math whiz kids

Posted 3/13/13 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

A group of students from Watford City High School has competed in the North Dakota MathCounts competition, held each spring, for some time now. Only unlike previous competitions, the Watford City High School MathCounts team walked away with the first place trophy and one member of the team claimed the MathCounts ‘triple crown.’
MathCounts is a national coaching and competitive mathematics program for students in grades six through eight. It promotes mathematics achievement through a series of fun and engaging “bee” style contests.
On Sunday, March 3, before the winter storm advisory and blizzard hit McKenzie County, the Watford City High School MathCounts team left for Bismarck to compete in the competition scheduled for the following day.
On Monday, March 4, while most of McKenzie County was recovering from the first part of the winter storm and bracing themselves for the second half to occur later that afternoon, Watford City High School students Zachary Luallen, Elijah Williams, Sean Larsen, and Cooper Knutson were preparing to compete. Though not part of the MathCounts team, Watford City High School student Megan McIntyre traveled with the team and participated in the competition.
According to the team’s coach, Michelle Swenson, every Watford City High School student that competed did very well, and one did better than every other competitor in North Dakota.
In the MathCounts competition, each student competes as an individual as well as part of a team. Then, the eight highest scoring individuals compete in a Countdown Round, which is a fast-paced, oral competition. The eight participating individuals are in a contest against each other to solve math problems without the use of calculators.
For the first time ever, the team competing from Watford City won first place at the state MathCounts competition. In addition, the top individual in the MathCounts competition was Watford City High School student Zachary Luallen, who then competed in the Countdown Round and won first place there.
Every member of the Watford City High School MathCounts team walked away with the first place team trophy, and Zachary Luallen also brought home the individual first place trophy and the Countdown Round first place trophy.
“I’m not sure how often a student wins all three, but it happened this year,” states Swenson. “One of the judges said that Zachary’s score was the highest she’d ever seen in the state.”
Needless to say, Zachary and his fellow teammates were thrilled with how well they did in the competition.
“It feels awesome,” stated Cooper Knutson. “We are proud and a little overwhelmed.”
The second, third and fourth place teams are from Ellendale Public School, Wachter Middle School in Bismarck, and South Middle School in Grand Forks, respectively.
The top four individuals from the State MathCounts competition will represent North Dakota at the 2012 MathCounts National Competition in Washington, D.C., on May 10-13. The four North Dakota team members will consist of first place winner, Zachary Luallen, as well as Brian Swanberg of Simle Middle School in Bismarck, Samuel Wolf of Wachter Middle School in Bismarck and Evan Haglund of Valley City Junior High School in Valley City.
Swenson, along with the other students’ coaches, will accompany the North Dakota team to the national competition.
According to a MathCounts representative, math is increasingly important in this technological society and students who do not begin to develop strong problem-solving, logical thinking and analytical abilities in middle school will face an uphill battle later in life if they wish to pursue a career in the medical, science, mathematics, engineering or technical fields.