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Local Students Qualify for State Math Fair in Durham May 4

Left to Right: Valerie Kitchell, Sarrah Kitchell, Grace Young and Maia Carter

By Sherrie Norris

It’s all about the numbers, folks, and an amazing opportunity for four youngsters as they represent Watauga County May 4 in the annual State Math Fair at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

Maia Carter, Grace Young, Sarrah Kitchell and Valerie Kitchell are among the 90 students from across North Carolina whose projects qualified for this prestigious competition.

To be eligible for Saturday’s state math fair, the four local winners initially had to secure either a first, second or third place, or an honorable mention, in one of the three regional math fairs held earlier this spring. During the regional events, which are open to all students in the state (in the following age groups: K-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 and 9-12), six awards were presented in each age group in each region.

The western region fair was held Saturday, March 24, in the Plemmons Student Union at Appalachian State University in Boone.

Directed by Dr. Betty Long, a professor of mathematical sciences at ASU, the state-wide event is sponsored by the N.C. Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

According to information provided by Dr. Long, the math fair projects are judged on seven criteria: written documentation, oral presentation, development and demonstration of mathematical concepts, investigation beyond everyday classroom investigation, student creativity, organization of ideas and appearance.

Additionally, math fair projects give students an opportunity to expand their mathematical horizons by going beyond the standard curriculum. The math fair is known as “a place where the student can excel.”

More about the winners from Watauga County:

Maia Carter, age 6, is a kindergarten student at Mountain Pathways Montessori School, and is possibly the youngest person to qualify for the state competition this year. She is the daughter of Tara and Jason Carter. Her project title, “How Many Marbles to Sink My Boat,” predicts the number of marbles in different sizes to sink her boat.

Grace Young, age 9, is in third grade at Parkway Elementary School and is the daughter of Erica and Wes Young. Her project title is “Probability: It’s A Piece of Cake,” and explores the probability of winning a cake walk, and compares it to the probability of randomly spinning a 1-10 on a number wheel.

Sarrah Kitchell, 11, is in the fifth grade at Valle Crucis Elementary School. Her parents are Megan Hayes and Michael Kitchell. Project title: “What Causes Hunger In My State: the effects of on different variables on food insecurity in North Carolina.” Because the western region math fair was held on the same day as her science fair, Sarrah competed and won an award in the central region fair.

Valerie Kitchell, 15, is a freshman at Watauga High School and is also the daughter of Megan Hayes and Michael Kitchell. Her project title is “Predictive Policing,” which explores the accuracy of crime indicator models.

The Mission of the Math Fairs and Their Importance in Education

“Knowing mathematics is doing mathematics. A person gathers, discovers or creates knowledge in the course of some activity having a purpose.”

This quote was taken from the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and according to Long, is a good description of what happens when a student completes a math fair project. It could also be called “the mission of the math fairs, because a math fair project gives the student the opportunity to expand his/her mathematical horizons by going beyond the standard curriculum in the classroom. The math fair is a place where the student can excel. Thus, it is a confidence-booster. All of this contributes to the importance of math fairs in education.”

The first NCCTM State Math Fair was held in 1997 at the Hillandale Staff Development Center in Durham. As a part of the inaugural event, six judges reviewed about 45 projects. During the past 21 years, 1,800 students have showcased 1,450 projects at the annual statewide event. 

Grace Young is in 3rd grade at Parkway School
Sarrah Kitchell in in 5th grade at Valle Crucis School
Maia Carter is enrolled at Mountain Pathways
Valerie Kitchell is in 9th grade at Watauga High School