Monday, May 14, 2007

24 Math Competition


For 4 years, I have co-coordinated Anne Arundel County's Middle School 24 Competition. Every year after the event I sit back and process the event.... and ever year I am convinced that we need to find a way to spread the interest in this game.

If you haven't been to a competition, it's hard to imagine. If you walked in during the middle of a round, it would be nearly silent. You would see students sitting at tables with 4 competitors and 1 proctor. Once time is started, the proctor places a 24 card on the table and students race to solve it first, after it is solved another card is placed on the table. To solve a card, students may add, subtract, multiply and/or divide; they must use each number on the card and may only use each number once, their final answer must be 24. One other catch-- when students state their solution, they must state their last step first (ie 8x3=24) then proceed to explain their entire solution. After 10 minutes, time is called, student points are tallied, and students are re-seated at new tables. Play continues like this for four rounds. During the 4th round, the top scorers are seated at the competing table and they play the final round to determine the champion for the year.

Here's the catch.... when we started this competition 4 years ago we used a basic single digit 24 deck. Last year we increased the difficulty of the challenge and again this year we increased the difficulty, ending up with:

  • The Red Level -- alternating rounds of double digit cards and variable cards
  • The Gold Level -- alternating rounds of fraction/decimal cards and variable cards. Students must determine a variable that will solve both wheels and then state their solutions.
Involving over half of the county's middle schools, this competition draws approximately 60-70 competitors each year. Many schools have created after school clubs dedicated to preparing for this competition. When I was teaching, I had students come at lunch time every day to play. We always had so much fun. One of the benefits that I really, really value is the problem solving discussion-- one of my students used to grab my hand after we solved a card and I was able to replace it with a new card and say "Wait! Wait! Wait! I want to share how I solved this card." He was delighted to tell the group that he had a different way. His excitement was contagious... soon after, everyone had to share how they had solved the card. It's hard to generate that sort of discussion based around a text book problem.

Watching students play this game and/or compete is truly any math teacher's delight--- students willingly sitting at a table adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing double digit, fraction and decimal numbers in their heads at a very fast pace!

So now.... how do we get this to spread? .... Yes, we're working on this idea and hope to find a way!

1 comment:

Jason said...

Very cool game. I remember the days when you had this competition rolling!