A triumphant Rosa Parks team poses with their teacher, Mary Martin, after dominating the MathMatters competition. Photo: Cindy Leung

Fifth grade students from Rosa Parks Elementary School in West Berkeley took home four of the top ten spots in a regional math competition Saturday, besting a field of more than 90 students from public and private elementary schools throughout the Bay Area. Rosa Parks student Ben Roberts took home the top prize, a Kindle Fire HD.

The Ninth Annual MathMatters contest was held in Oakland at Bay Tech High School on Nov. 17.  The contest is held annually in five different states and, according to its website, aims to “stimulate interest and achievement in mathematics among elementary school students and to provide recognition of outstanding young mathematicians, their dedicated teachers, and schools.”

Five girls and five boys from Rosa Parks participated in the competition, answering 15 challenging math problems in only 30 minutes. To prepare, the Rosa Parks students had voluntarily given up recess three days a week for a month to practice with Mary Martin, a Rosa Parks fifth grade teacher who served as their coach.

Rosa Parks students Ben Roberts, Rachel Alper, Olivia Leung-Brown, and Naomi Barrios celebrate the school’s strong showing at the MathMatters regional competition. Photo: Cindy Leung
Rosa Parks students Ben Roberts, Rachel Alper, Olivia Leung-Brown, and Naomi Barrios celebrate the school’s strong showing at the MathMatters regional competition. Photo: Cindy Leung

The day of the test, all the students were very excited and a little nervous. After taking the test, there was about 30 minutes of snacks and waiting while they graded the tests. During this time, many of the Rosa Parks students gathered around to talk about the problems, their answers, and which ones they thought they had gotten right.

When it came time to announce the winners, the competition organizers started with the tenth place and counted down. When they reached eight place, Rosa Parks student Aviv Schifrin walked up.  Then Rachel Alper, the only girl to place in the top 10, walked up to accept the sixth place certificate.  Dylan Goetting was next at fifth place, and went running up to the stage to accept his award. The other winners were announced and the, when it came to first place, the announcer said it was a student from Rosa Parks and all the families from Rosa Parks starting cheering. When Ben Roberts’ name was announced as the winner, he jumped up and down and bounded up to the stage. Afterwards, all the students hugged their teacher and congratulated each other.

Martin, who won a $150 gift certificate as the coach of the winning student, said she was proud of all of the kids who competed.  “They really put a lot of effort into practicing,” she said. “While their peers were out the door for recess and lunch, our students were preparing for 40 minutes of math discourse. On testing day, though anticipation was palpable, our students encouraged each other throughout. Rosa Parks was a winner on Saturday, and we were all proud to be a part of that win.”

School Board member Beatriz Leyva-Cutler said: “This is where the foundation of loving math and numbers begins, in the early grades. It is outstanding to see so many girls rising to the top in math and I can tell that Rosa Parks is doing something special given how many students were part of the competition. Congratulations to Rosa Parks and Teacher, Mary Martin, and of course, the young girls and boys who worked hard. Thank you for representing Berkeley Schools so well!”

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