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On "Pi Day," Minnesota Mathletes Look Forward to National Competition

Minnesota math teacher and coach Alex Ford helped his students (Riaz Kelly, Sasha Hydrie, Simon Mulrooney, Cali Rivera) become this year's top-placing team. (Terriann Rice)
Minnesota math teacher and coach Alex Ford helped his students (Riaz Kelly, Sasha Hydrie, Simon Mulrooney, Cali Rivera) become this year's top-placing team. (Terriann Rice)
March 14, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As mathematicians celebrate "Pi Day" – with the date, 3-14, bearing the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi – four top-ranking Minnesota middle schoolers will be heading to Washington, D.C., for a national math competition after bringing home top honors in the state's Mathcounts tournament over the weekend.

The student "mathletes" from St. Paul's Capitol Hill Magnet School competed against students from 25 other schools across the state.

For math teacher and winning coach Alex Ford, this is his third national competition. Beyond learning how to compete and do algebra, he said, the tournament also helps students prepare for adulthood.

"Mathematics makes you a better thinker, it makes you a better logical thinker, it makes you a better problem solver and it opens doors for kids," he said.

Nationally, the Mathcounts tournament brings in about 40,000 students from 6,000 schools. The Capitol Hill Magnet School students will head to the final round in early May.

Many of the student mathletes prepare for the tournament throughout the school year, but the training isn't just for those doing well in math. Ford said he also likes to include students who may need some extra help.

"At the chapter level, at the school level, we bring kids in just because it's fun," said Ford. "They may not make it so far in competition, but it's still a really good experience for them, too."

Volunteers at the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers worked with teachers throughout the state to help host this year's competition.

The competition results are online at mathcountsmn.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN