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The City Journals

Daybreak Elementary’s math tournament challenges South Valley students

Jun 05, 2017 11:14AM ● By Kimberly Roach

About 325 students took part in Daybreak Elementary’s seventh annual math tournament, which gives students a chance to be challenged and excel in mathematics. (Daybreak Elementary)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]
It took Jordan Ridge sixth-grader Michael Pond less than one minute to solve the second tie-breaker to win first place in Daybreak Elementary’s seventh annual math tournament.
“It was awesome, just amazing,” he said. “I never expected to do that well.”
Even though Michael earned a perfect score on his individual test, he still had two tie-breakers before he beat Gavin Gann of Blackridge Elementary in Herriman, who edged him out last year to take the fifth-grade title.
Six students tied for third place in this year’s tournament. With a sudden death playoff, Pond’s classmate Nethra Suresh took home the award. Students Ryker Anderson, of Ascent Academies in West Jordan; Caleb Weaver, of Eastlake Elementary; Tyler Martin, of Blackridge; Colby Wright, of Riverton Elementary; and Parker Strong, of Blackridge, received honorable mention awards.
Daybreak’s 4.5-hour math tournament that involves solving about 25 challenging math problems on a variety of math topics was founded and organized by parent Katherine Harbaugh, who wanted to give students a chance to excel in math.
“The tournament is an opportunity for higher-level math kids to be challenged,” she said. It’s a chance for them to put their mathematics to the test.”
Harbaugh, who follows the Math Olympiads for Elementary and Middle Schools’ rules, invites public and charter schools within the south part of the Salt Lake Valley to send individuals and teams of five students to the tournament.
“Several schools will send a fifth- and a sixth-grade team; others will pull their top 10 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders and create mixed teams,” she said.
Riverton Elementary’s team 1, with team members Derek Ball, Sarah Chen, Peyton Cole, Sterling Lund and Christopher Shevalier, won the first-place team trophy. Blackridge team 1, with Anne Castleton, Dawson Jepson, Tyler Martin, Eli Rush and Jaxon Smith finished second. Riverton’s team 2 with team members Max Austin, Elise Chiari, Gabi Fenn, Ethan Hall and Colby Wright was third.
Harbaugh said usually the teams that have the most sixth-graders do better since they’ve learned more math skills.
“We also honor the highest individual fourth- and fifth-grade competitors with medals,” she said.
This year, Jack Beckstrom, of Eastlake Elementary; Jaren Gordon, of Westland Elementary in West Jordan; and Reed Stewart, of North Star Academy in Bluffdale, were recognized as the highest-scoring fifth-graders. Isaac Turley, of Jordan Ridge Elementary, was the highest-scoring fourth-grader.
Harbaugh, who learned about hosting their own tournament through Math Olympiad eight years ago, said the first tournament featured 37 teams. This year, 325 students competed on 65 teams representing 26 schools.
The tournament involves several volunteers from each school grading and regrading students’ tests for accuracy. In addition, through the years, Chris Merle, and this year, Daybreak sixth-grade teacher Wendy Babcock, have been emcees, keeping students in check.
“There’s a lot to learn in the tournament-setting in an academic competition,” Harbaugh said. “It’s valuable to try your best and put yourself out there.”
With Daybreak’s teams, Harbaugh met twice during the school year to go over techniques for the story problems.
“We go over previous years’ problems so they can see the difficulty level and how it builds up from the first question to the last one,” she said. “There’s a lot of problem-solving and teamwork involved.
While Daybreak didn’t win this year, it had success in its first three years of the tournament, with Harbaugh’s son even taking the top honors.
“There’s not much for math contests compared to athletics competitions, so it’s worthwhile to see students have a chance to go after their academic pursuit and get the glory they deserve,” she said.