Schalmont Middle School students did some “amazing” test preparation on Friday.
More than 100 students raced around their school solving math problems, much in the style of “Amazing Race,” the CBS program where teams race around the world, confronting problems as they go. Except $1 million wasn’t on the line in Schalmont’s event.
Instead, the exercise helped students review concepts to prepare for the state math tests, which those in grades three through eight will take next week. This is the first year the exams are based on the new, tougher Common Core curriculum.
The math version of the Amazing Race was the brainchild of math teachers Lorinda Gandrow, Aimee Yankowski and Kirsten VanDyk.
“We wanted to alleviate some of the pressure and have a fun night,” Gandrow said.
And it was fun for the teachers to put together the event, she said. Not only math teachers worked on the project but also English and science and special education.
The event started in the cafeteria. Gandrow counted down the start time and then one member of each team took an envelope complete with “Amazing Race” logo and color-coded by grade, and ripped it open to reveal their first problem.
Then, students each had to solve a problem and pick one of four possible answers. Each answer directed students to a different room. If they got the right answer, they received the next problem. If they were wrong, they had to figure out where they went wrong and do it again.
Sample fifth-grade problem: Find the sum of 5⁄6 and 1⁄8:
Possible answers: 5⁄48; 23⁄24; 6⁄11; 11⁄24
Correct answer: 23⁄24.
Sample eighth-grade problem: The radius of the sphere is 9 inches. What is the volume of the sphere in cubic inches:
Possible answers: 243 Pi; 729 Pi; 972 Pi; 3,052 Pi
Correct answer: 972 Pi.
For each correct answer, the students received a raffle ticket and the team that completed the race in the fastest time received an arm’s length worth, which increased their chances of winning the grand prize.
Fifth grader Isabella Almodovar admitted that the prize is what motivated her.
“I wanted to win the iPad mini,” she said.
The prize was donated by a teacher.
Somewhere along the way, there was a “Detour,” which involved moving a pyramid-shaped puzzle from one area to the other using only one piece at a time and not putting any bigger pieces on top of little pieces.
Fifth grader Paige Meschon, 11, who was working with her sister Jenna, said she liked the idea of the race.
“I think it would be fun and it would help me with math for my state tests,” she said.
Most of the students were working in pairs but 13-year-old eighth grader was part of a three-person team that also included 14-year-old Will Priest and Noah Nicholas.
“I thought it would be a great experience for me and my friends to try to put our heads together,” he said.
The event was also quite a workout. Students were supposed to walk fast, but occasionally they sprinted up the stairs and down the halls.
“I’ve never sweated this much in my entire life,” said 11-year-old fifth grader Quinn Rickard.
The pace moved a little too fast for sixth grader Jordan Bush at one point.
“I’m still looking for my team,” he said.
The first to finish were eighth-grade partners Matt DeFilippo and Kyle Jasenski.
Jasenski said he was pumped by his accomplishment and felt like the boss. “I love my momma,” he said.
Friday’s competition was the culmination of a special project titled “Let’s Get Ready to ‘Rock’ the Test!” Students worked alone or in groups on projects to review the material covered so far this year.
Principal Matt Morgan said students seemed to be having a good time — even though they had three days of English language arts state tests this week.
“I was worried they were going to be drained — mentally and emotionally,” he said. “As you can see. They’re pretty excited; they’re pretty motivated.”