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The City Journals

South Jordan Elementary wins district Monster Math titles

Jun 21, 2017 03:39PM ● By Julie Slama

South Jordan Elementary second-graders won Jordan School District’s Monster Math title. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]
South Jordan Elementary second-grader Mackenzie Taylor worked several challenging math story problems as homework during the school year in preparation for the Jordan School District’s Monster Math competition.
“I like math and by doing these problems, I’m learning how to do them which will help me the rest of my life,” said Mackenzie, adding that her second grade class all got to enter the competition.  “With Monster Math, we were able to work in teams so that was really fun.”
However, she said the District challenge contained two problems — one, figuring out a perimeter and the second, measuring feet and time.
“They were hard problems.  The one with feet and time had us figuring out how many feet a squirrel needing to come up if it was in a certain amount of time.  I liked that one best because squirrels are cute,” Mackenzie said.
Weeks later, the second-grade students in Lois Mortensen’s class learned they won by seeing the trophy approach their classroom.
“I was so happy.  We all were screaming.  It was so awesome,” she said.
Mortensen, who said she was proud of her class for winning, began preparing the students for the Monster Math district competition in the fall by introducing them to strategies and steps to solve problems and then, practicing it on a regular basis.
The steps students followed included reading the problem, rereading the problem and underlining or highlighting what is needed; rereading it a third time and visualizing the problem; writing a complete answer to the problem and leaving a blank to fill in after solving it; trying different strategies on a white board to solve it; filling in the blank in the answer sentence; and rereading it and checking off that everything was completed.
She also suggested students use strategies to solve the math problem such as drawing a picture, making a table, working it out backward, trying it with manipulatives, acting it out, charting data, checking for patterns, trying smaller numbers and guessing a solution and checking to see if it works.
Then, she gave them problems she’d create or ones from previous years’ tests as daily homework.
With the district test, the students’ answers are evaluated by showing their work and explaining their methods and thinking process. Full points are not given if the answer isn’t labeled correctly or a step is missing, and partial points are awarded if the work is shown, labeled and explained, but has a computation error leading to an incorrect answer.
For the competition, Mortensen entered her entire class — seven teams — into the competition. 
“We took the test and sent it into the District early as our class was going off track, so we had an even longer waiting period,” she said.  “But when the kids saw the trophy, they were screaming and jumping.  It was jubilant chaos.”
The revolving trophy will stay at the school until next year’s competition, but has become a familiar sight in South Jordan Elementary as the second grade has won it multiple years JoAnn Wilcox.
A group of top math students in third grade also competed in Monster Math.  This was their first time South Jordan has entered the contest for the third grade — and were crowned champions.
Coached by math aide Sara Sofinia, the 20 participants are Sara Hawes, Liam Clayton, Caleb Scott, Eric Jones, Chase Daynes, Subhana Adiga, Ava Bilss, Nakai Ankers, Deacon Galke, Sam Hanson, Lincoln Mills, Dace Dean, Grace Dishman, Hayden Thomson, Lucas Neidig, Jacob Mabey, Miranda Salisbury, Cade Petersen, Cooper Hale and Isabella Mehn.