Junior High MathCounts team places fourth at Chapter competition

Student June LePage (left) poses with teacher and MathCounts coach Katherine Spraggins at the state competition.       Photo courtesy of Katherine Spraggins



On Friday, Feb. 3, Billings Montana hosted the annual Chapter competition – these competitions are held throughout the state. The competition was hosted on the MSU Billings campus.

Lewistown Junior High MathCounts students came home with a fourth-place trophy, but not the opportunity to compete at the state MathCounts competition. However, student June LePage’s score was high enough to compete as an individual at the state competition. 

Members of the Competition team from the eighth grade were June LePage, Carson Lewis, Natalie Day and Trinity Edwards. Individual members competing on their own were eighth-graders Truman Pierce, Caleb Greenberg, Grant Swan and Sean Kunau. The seventh-grade individual competitors were Ashton Grover and Caden McCord.

The Chapter competition held in Billings had many Class AA schools competing from the Billings area. Any time we beat any one of them, it is a class act for Lewistown. Eleven teams competed this year, so only three teams from the Billings Chapter got to go to state. Had one more team competed with our chapter, Lewistown would have traveled to state.

There were 95 individuals who competed with all classes represented. Team placing was as follows: Castle Rock Middle School placed first with 47.25 points, Will James Middle School was in second place, Lewis and Clark Middle School, captured third place, while Lewistown came in fourth with 40 total team points. The top three teams advanced to the state competition.

June LePage was our top finisher from Lewistown with a total of 38 individual points, placing her third overall. The first and second place finishers were from Billings’ schools, and they had 40 and 39 points for their individual scores. Carson Lewis and Caleb Greenberg were in the top 25 percent list, placing 16th and 17th with 32 points each.

Particular questions are tagged before the competition as tiebreaker questions, and if a student answers those questions correctly over another student, they are placed in a higher rank.

Our students began their MathCounts training at the beginning of the school year, as we added it as an elective for both seventh and eighth grades kids to choose. Anyone can sign up for the MathCounts class, but I do determine a team by administering a series of tests to help narrow our field down to 10 competitors just in our school. The 10 competitors were decided on a few weeks before the competition. We were fortunate to have the class as an option the past two years, as enrollment is low in the eighth grade. It opened up a time for me to run a class to get kids ready. I was able to train about 23 kids to better their math skills.

Our students sacrifice a lot of their personal time to be successful in solving all of the math problems outside of class. If the student wants to be competitive they have to put extra time in to be able to compete with the rest of the state. Some of the kids from the bigger schools start their grooming at a younger age than in Lewistown. Kids are allowed to start competing in sixth grade. Lewistown kids only begin to see MathCounts problems in the seventh and eighth grade. The skills these kids acquire in this class will carry through the rest of their lives. Our kids are only as good as they want to be, which says a lot about the perseverance of our students.


LePage goes to State competition

March 9 was the State competition. June LePage was Lewistown’s only competitor at State. She finished 22nd overall, which put her in the top 25 percent of the kids in the competition. She was competing against the cream of the crop from all over the state. I am extremely proud of her showing. She is super humble about her skills; she is a special kid. In order for her to go to Nationals, she would have had to be in the top four students. The top two finishers at state were from our Chapter competition, where June placed third.

The Chapter and State MathCounts competitions include four different types of tests. The first test students take is called the Sprint Round, consisting of 30 questions. They are not allowed to use calculators or help from their teammates. It is an individualized test and must be completed in 40 minutes. Each question will earn an individual point for a correct response. June received 26 points on this part of the testing.

The next test is called the Target Round, and calculators are acceptable. Each student receives two questions and must finish in 6 minutes, then two more until they have each completed eight questions total. These questions earn the competitors two points per correct answer to go toward their individual score. The students are then given a Team Test; again calculators are acceptable. Ten questions are given and must be finished within 20 minutes as a team. This test counts heavily toward the team scoring, earning two points per question. Teams scores are determined by the mean score (average) of the four team members’ individual scores, plus the team test score. A perfect score as a team is 66 points.

The last test is called the Countdown Round, which is played in a game show type fashion at the chapter competition. A member from each of the 11 teams was represented in 11 different rounds. Each round consisted of three different questions. Competitors had to buzz in and answer the question correctly, and the player who answered the most number of questions in their round correctly was selected to compete in the final Countdown round. Some of the competitors were able to buzz in before the question was finished being read, and give the correct answer. The questions in the Countdown round are very difficult, while some of our students were able to answer a question, they did not make it to the final round.

The Countdown competition runs differently at State. It is used to place the top 10 into the top four positions. Ten challenges nine, the winner than challenges eighth, and so on down the line. So, potentially a student in 10 could work their way to the first place position by beating other students out of their seat.

I was the coach for this year’s team. This was the first year without Mr. Hamling and we missed him.


Katherine Spraggins is a math teacher at Lewistown Junior High School.



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