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Stuck in the Middle: Voluntary Math Test - Seriously

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Stuck in the Middle: Voluntary Math Test - Seriously
by Kal Russell - Thursday, 13 April 2017, 11:43 AM

Stuck in the Middle: Voluntary Math Test - Seriously

This week we are starting to advertise and encourage all of our students to participate in the GAUSS International Mathematics Contest.  This is the third year our students will have this wonderful opportunity.  Last year we have 77 students write the test and this year we would like to increase that number.

Students voluntarily sign up to take this test.  Yes, I said voluntarily.  Pretty cool!   It is an assessment of their mathematical problem-solving abilities.  Many of the schools participating across the country and the world are independent private schools.  My guess is they have a looser definition of “voluntary” than we do at NSMS, so we are very proud that we have so many kids signing up to write.  

One year we had a student score a perfect 150 out of 150 - 100%.  This is a rare occurrence and he was one of a few students that year in Canada with a perfect score.  When the results of the GAUSS assessment showed up on my desk that year I was excited about our school’s results and the one perfect score, and I was interested in picking this one young man's brain.  I knew he was a good math student, but I also knew he wasn’t even the top math student in our school.  So I wanted to know why he did so well.  

That day as the two of us (my choice - I think he would have rather been playing Manhunter) walked around the school yard at lunch, I bombarded him with questions about the test.  He must have felt like Ryan Miller in the Vancouver Canucks goal getting peppered with rapid-fire shots.  He deflected each question into the corner like a pro with a simple and straight answer. 

I asked questions like, “Does Math come easily to you?”

“Not always,”  was his short reply.

“Did you study for the test?”

“Not really.”

“Was the test easy?”

Followed by my son’s favorite response when I ask him a question he doesn’t want to answer, “I don’t know.”

But then I asked the right question.  “Did you struggle with any questions?”

And his response was impressive, “It took me 20 minutes to answer the last question.  I kept trying new solutions and strategies.  And then I found one and it worked.  I knew right away that I had answered the last question right.”  His eyes lighted up with pride.  Now this young man had grit.  

It was not the fact that he answered all the questions right that made him excited.  It was the fact that the test challenged him and he won.  I compare it to when I finally made it passed level 5 on Super Mario Brothers.  He had to find the missing key to the question before he could move on.

At North Saanich Middle School you can voluntarily sign up for an international Math test.  It’s not for marks, credit or glory.  It is just a fun way of challenging yourself in Mathematics.

Go Hawks!

PS - Please sign up for this year’s GAUSS Math Assessment with your advisory teacher if you are willing to accept the challenge.  

North Saanich Multiage Math Video -