Friday, February 10, 2012
Engineering the future -- one young mind at a time
By Leanne Smith
JACKSON — Math comes easy to Justin Friedel.
Last year, as a seventh-grader, he aced algebra. This year, he's taking even more high school math classes.
But on Friday, the Napoleon Middle School eighth-grader found himself in the thick of it in the countdown round of the Jackson Mathcounts competition, where he had 45 seconds to correctly answer a tough story problem.
“It's a lot of pressure,” he said. “But I'm good at math so it's fun, too.”
Justin was among 88 mathematicians from Napoleon Middle School, Jackson Catholic Middle School, Trinity Lutheran School, Onsted Middle School, Grass Lake Junior High School, Western Middle School, Hillsdale Academy, Paragon Charter Academy, Olivet Middle School and the Middle School at Parkside who competed in the local Mathcounts competition at Jackson Community College.
Mathcounts is a national math competition club for middle school students. Teams compete locally for the chance to advance to state and national competition. The Jackson contest is led by the Jackson Chapter of the Michigan Society of Professional Engineers.
“We all earned a living with math,” said Rich Cottrell, a retired Consumers Energy engineer who serves as the Jackson chapter Mathcounts coordinator. “This gives us a chance to encourage young people good in math to keep at it.”
The day involves four rounds of either team or individual competitions that cover all aspects of math, from ratios and probability to fractions and percentages to algebra and geometry.
“I look forward to this,” said Maisey Schuler, a Parkside eighth-grader. “I like being able to work as a group. That's more fun.”
In the end, Western's team of Jacob Kuntzleman, Josiah Ottolini, Raegan Kennedy and Alex Garner came in first. Parkside's team of Schuler, Parker Wrzesinski, Kevin Zhang and Brandon Riggins was second.
Both advance to the state competition at Ferris State University on March 17, as will individual winner Ian Hines of Olivet.
Parkside's team is coached by Rob Wheeler, an engineer with Jackson's Commonwealth Associates Inc.
“We've had calculus three and calculus four in college and these kids can get the answers to these questions before we do,” Wheeler said. “It's humbling, but it's fun and it's amazing to watch these kids do math.”