Math games bring middle schools together

<p>Jillian Hawkins, 13, of Baker Middle School answers a math problem during the relay competition at the 30th annual Pentagames Math Challenge.</p>

Armand Larive Middle School students let out rolling cheers that shake the ground every time their school is called during the Pentagames winners’ ceremony on Friday.

The biggest cheer came when the Armand Larive team — nine students in all — was named 2013 Overall Pentagame champions. Students stomped on the ground to outdo their last applause.

“This is, by far, the best we’ve done,” said math teacher and Pentagames coach Jennifer Cox.

The Pentagames are an unusual source of school pride for students. With five games called Math Tac Toe, Solve that Problem, 35-Minus, Team CR Squared and Relay, the games are centered around mathematic challenges.

Armand Larive has hosted the math challenge since 2009, when Cox became the school’s Pentagames coach.

Eight other middle schools shuttled students to the Hermiston school for the day-long competition. Some, like Sandstone Middle School, came from just around the corner.

But most, like those from Baker, Hines and Tumalo middle schools, had to trek at least a few hours to get to?Hermiston.

Crook County math teacher Matt Fischer slept on Armand Larive’s gym floor Thursday night, along with nine 7th and 8th grade girls and boys.

“It’s been great,” Fischer said. “They are such a good group. It’s fun to see them do well and work hard.”

Fischer had an optional Pentagames workshop once a week for students to prepare.

Armand Larive, however, had its own games elective taught by Cox.

“We practiced all the games and learned ways to make the problems easier for us,” said Armand Larive 8th grader Vaemu Ena, 14.

The culminating event of the day is the Pentagames relay. The whole school watches as students run to a table, solve a math problem, then race back to tag their teammate.

It’s the 30th year of Pentagames’ existence in Oregon. What started as a nine-team event now has eighty-five schools competing in 10 competitions throughout the state.

“Kids have all kinds of athletic competitions in school,” Cox said. “This is a chance for students with math skills to showcase their talent.”

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Contact Natalie Wheeler at nwheeler@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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