Under the fluorescent lights of the Mount Vernon Exploratory School cafeteria, students’ minds raced. They read math problems off sheets of paper, trying to solve each one with just a dry-erase marker and board in hand.
Each student was hoping to finish first in their grade level at the Math Mania competition on Saturday, March 3, at Mount Vernon. Seven elementary schools from the northern part of the county were there, while seven others from South Hall did the same at Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry.
“The kids need an opportunity to excel and show that they excel in math just like other activities,” said Jennifer Westbrook, principal at Mount Vernon. “It’s Saturday and look at all the families and kids who are excited about math.”
Throughout the day, students from each grade level solved multiplication problems, word problems and those having to do with money as they competed against each other. Once they wrote their answers down, they were asked to hold their boards in the air.
Each student had five tickets and each wrong answer led to a ticket being taken away. When all of their tickets were gone, they had to leave the cafeteria.
North Grade Level Winners
First grade: 1st, Turner Clark, Sardis; 2nd, Murphy Whitlow, Mount Vernon; 3rd, Henry Floyd, Mount Vernon
Second grade: 1st, Louis Carey, Mount Vernon; 2nd, Meerah Myrnyi, Lanier; 3rd, Ethan Thome, Lanier
Third grade: 1st, Andrew Boyd, Mount Vernon; 2nd, Andre Sanchez, Lanier; 3rd, Cole Cable, Lanier
Fourth grade: 1st, Eli Ham, Lanier; 2nd, Daniel Cavazos, Riverbend; 3rd, CJ Fair, Lula
Fifth grade: 1st, Evelyn Crow, Riverbend; 2nd, William Carey, Mount Vernon; 3rd, Matthew Morgan and Kate Stillerman, Sardis
South Grade Level Winners
First grade: 1st, Matt Wilsey, Spout Springs; 2nd, Connor Butterly, Spout Springs; 3rd, Caity O'Neil, Spout Springs
Second grade: 1st, Konstantinos Parastatidis, Martin; 2nd, Natasha Gomez, Friendship; 3rd, Kevin Trainor, Friendship
Third grade: 1st, Jake Ledford, Flowery Branch; 2nd, Angel O'Keke, Flowery Branch; 3rd, Kaiyah Frady, Friendship
Fourth grade: 1st, Jack Martin, Spout Springs; 2nd, Sam Jennings, Spout Springs; 3rd, Jace Martin, Chestnut Mountain
Fifth grade: 1st, Max Munoz, Spout Springs; 2nd, Ava Nardone, Spout Springs; 3rd, Jed Ledford, Flowery Branch
Cole Cable, who won last year’s competition for second-graders, was confident in his ability to win again this year. He said it felt good to win last year, especially since he was scared as he answered the last question. He said he just guessed at it. This year, though, he came more prepared.
“I prepared by practicing every night,” Cole said. “It’s fun.”
He didn’t end up winning, but he did finish in third place.
Someone who is used to winning is Eli Ham, a fourth-grader at Lanier Elementary School, and all those around him felt he deserved it. His math teacher at Lanier, Tracy Giles, was in the cafeteria when he won for the third year in a row, and she was emotional after he answered the final question.
She called Eli “one of the most naturally brilliant students” she has ever taught and she’s happy some good is coming into his life. His father passed away from an undiagnosed heart condition in October, and everyone was rooting for him.
“He’s overcome so much and gone through so much,” Giles said. “So just to pick up where he left off — he always works hard.”
As Eli came off the stage in the gymnasium after earning his medal and gift card, he gathered with friends who jumped up and down in celebration. He was greeted with hugs from other friends, teachers and loved ones who waiting on the gymnasium floor.
But to Eli, it was just another day and just another win at Math Mania, though he gave some of the credit to his father.
“I get it from my dad,” he said.”And my math teacher. It’s very fun and I really like it.”