Local 'mathletes' win big at regions, aim for state

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Top "mathletes" from the Northland faced off at the regional MathCounts competition and a number of Carlton County students emerged victorious and are headed to the state competition next month.

The Moose Lake team of Emily Bohnsack, Kennady Davis, Jade Eskuri and Zach Youngs took first place while the Cloquet Middle School Math team of Cade Anderson, Nate Bong, Alex Despot and Kaci Vereecken earned second place at the Feb. 8 event held at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The top two teams advance to the State MathCounts competition which will be held in Plymouth, Minn. on March 11.

Moose Lake coach Karen Autio said Moose Lake made a come-from-behind victory at MathCounts with the highest team event of the day.

"It has been several years since Moose Lake has made a team appearance at state competition," Autio said. "Hard work and team collaboration have made a difference this year.

CMS math teacher and MathCounts coach Arne Maijala was also thrilled with the results from the regional competition, and noted that eighth grader Cade Anderson earned first place overall as an individual, while Kaci Vereecken was ninth. While Anderson, Vereecken, Bong and Despot were on the designated scoring team of four and will advance as a team to state, Carter Kubis, Cale Prosen, Harmony Tracy, and Caley Kruse also represented CMS as individuals.

Other Carlton County students advancing to state as individuals are Esko's Emlyn Mock and Barnum's Jacob Hultgren.

Many of the students spend six months preparing and competing in the Junior High Math League competitions at Esko, which helps prepare them for the big event, the MathCounts competition at UMD. The Math League competition consists of five meets throughout the year where a team of six students compete both as individuals and as a team.

In the Junior High Math League season, Cloquet earned the first place spot with 523 points, beating second place Esko with 480 points. Moose Lake placed 3rd overall in the Math League season with 459 points. Top scoring individuals for Math League were Kennady Davis (second place), Zach Youngs (fifth place), and Emily Bohnsack (ninth place).

Maijala said many of his kids practice for the math competitions while attending his Power-Up Enrichment classes, which are optional classes that middle school students get to choose.

"Our students have done very well in the team rounds this year which was great to see," Maijala said, noting that Cade Anderson was the overall winner in Math League, while Kaci Vereecken took fourth, Wyatt line sixth and Nate Bong eighth. "It is a real pleasure working with these kids."

MathCounts is sponsored by the National Society of Professional Engineers to encourage math and science skills in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.

There are several rounds of competition to test different skill sets.

In the first round of the competition, or target round, the students are given two questions to answer in six minutes and they are allowed to use a calculator. They need to apply strategies to solve the multi-step problems.

The spirit round is next. The students are given 30 questions to solve in 40 minutes using only paper and pencils.

Maijala said knowing key math vocabulary is important to do well in the competitions, as well as understanding sequences, formulas and geometry.

"The more you know, the easier it is," Maijala said.

In the countdown competition, the top eight scorers compete one-on-one against each other.

"I think being winners of competitions like this has more merit than athletic wins," Maijala said. "They showed they can solve problems and work effectively in groups."