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Staples Introduces New Academic Contest Based on Moody’s Mega Math Challenge

Staples Introduces New Academic Contest Based on Moody’s Mega Math Challenge

Lila Epstein ’10

This year, students will have a chance to participate in the Staples Spectacular Student Challenge for the first time. The competition is an interdisciplinary challenge where students can compete in groups of four or five. The contest will take place on Jan. 30, from 8 a.m to 9 p.m.

The top three teams will receive scholarship prizes and an award certificate. The first place team will receive $5,000, the second place team will receive $3,500, and the third place team will receive $1,500. The scholarships were made possible by private donors and Westport’s Green Village Initiative.

According to math teacher Gertrude Denton, the contest is modeled after the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge.

“It [Moody’s Challenge] was an incredible experience. We loved the real world connections; we loved the multitude of skills used, and we loved the collaboration in teams,” Denton said.

After years of participating in the Moody’s Challenge, teachers discussed adapting the contest to a Staples-specific version. According to Denton, Principal John Dodig was able to find a donor in the community to make it possible. However, the Staples challenge will not be as mathematically oriented as the Moody’s challenge.

“One of our goals is to include students from a lot of different disciplines,” social studies teacher Kathy Sharp said.

According to Sharp, the contest will require the team to have talents in economics, social studies and English. They will also need computer skills and presentation skills.

“It’s something that humanities kids can get involved in,” English teacher Julia McNamee said. “There are so many ways for students who are talented in math and science to be recognized so this will be for students who are strong in writing and strong in research.”

The participants will spend an entire day solving a problem in groups. The problem will be centered on a single open-ended question.

“The question will be focused on a local issue but with macro implications,” Denton said.

Sharp thinks that having the contest span an entire day instead of multiple increments is beneficial because this is the most realistic situation.

“[It is] like the real world. Often if you are working in government or business, a problem comes up and you really do only have 24 hours to solve it,” Sharp said.

McNamee agrees with Sharp that the day-long competition is optimal.

“You get to spend a whole day burning your brains out,” McNamee said. “I would have loved this in high school.”

The teachers have already heard of many interested students although the registration deadline is not until Nov. 30.

“In my economics class, students are already talking about putting together teams,” Sharp said.

McNamee and Denton also noted that they have interested students and have heard of teams formulating.

Eric Lubin ’11 plans on participating in the Challenge and is currently working on formulating a team.

“My older brother did Moody’s, and this is similar to the Moody’s challenge,” Lubin said.

Lubin said that while he chose to be on a team with his friends, he kept in consideration the skills and talents that each teammate would  contribute. “My only concern is that we might be lacking a bit on the humanities side,” Lubin said.

Joe Stopper ’11 also plans on competing in the Challenge. He first heard about the challenge in his AP Statistics class with Denton. He thinks that students are formulating teams based on both friendship and skills.

“Some people might form teams with their friends but some people who are more serious might try to get a really good collaborative group together with skills in math, computers, writing and current events,” Stopper said.

After the participants research and develop a solution to the problem they will compile a paper. The papers will be evaluated by Staples faculty. According to Denton, the faculty members will not see the names of the participants while judging the papers. The top teams will present their findings on Feb. 9 to a public panel.

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