In an exciting turn of events, Pocahontas County High School math field day team members took five of the top 12 spots at the regional competition earlier in March.
Five seniors ranked and will move on to the state competition at Concord University April 18. Vincent Harper, first place; David Rose, sixth place; Miles Goodall, eighth place; Corinne Airgood, first alternate; and Casey Griffith, second alternate worked hard together and as individuals at the regional fair.
“There were some written things, short answers, and then there was a section where we worked as a team,” Griffith said. “They gave us eight questions and we had to work together to figure them out. Then there was this relay. We split into groups of five – one person would do a problem and then pass back the answer and you would use the answer in your problem.”
Although the students didn’t know at the time, math teacher Chris Sutton said they received the top score in the relay race, far exceeding the competition.
“We beat everybody really bad in the relay,” Sutton said. “We had 66 points and the next closest team had 26.”
The students, who are currently taking AP Calculus to Sutton, have come a long way in their math careers at PCHS.
“This is probably one of the best math teams we’ve had,” Sutton said. “Next year, we have a couple people coming up that will be able to place and do some pretty good things. Just to have so many in one class is pretty neat.”
This is the first time PCHS has had a team do so well at regionals, including bringing home first place.
While many students and parents are struggling with math ever since the Common Core Standards – or Next Generation Standards as they are known in West Virginia – were implemented in the classrooms, Sutton believes the “new” math is part of the reason his students did so well at regionals.
“We started implementing some of the stuff with Common Core, some of the strategies with this group,” he said. “They were sort of the test pilot for a lot of the new strategies that we use in the high school, especially today. We started with this group and I think it did contribute to some of their success.”
The other part of their success is simply their intelligence, Sutton said.
“These kids are really bright so they would have been pretty successful, but I think it helped out quite a bit because, in the past, we had other kids that were at the same level of intelligence as these guys and they didn’t place as high at math field day,” Sutton added. “I don’t want to take anything away from their achievement, though.”
No matter how math is taught, there will always be those who understand it better than others, but with Common Core, Sutton thinks the students are able to comprehend the equations and explain their answers better than before.
“I think with Common Core, the focus is shifted away from ‘let’s memorize math and formulas’ to ‘let’s understand how it works,’” he said. “I think that’s one of the biggest problems most people have with it is that they don’t really know math, so whenever they’re faced with the task of actually figuring out how it works – they’re used to memorizing. They don’t actually know how it works.”
The team was rounded out by Kayla Lester, Laura Baudler, Ryan Puffenbarger, Logan Burks and Marilyn Creager.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org