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Math challenges add up to fun at Farmington Elementary School

Balancing a toothbrush on the bill of a cap and walking down a short track was one of the challenges.

There was a whole lot of excitement at Farmington Elementary School last Wednesday, and it wasn't just because kids had the next few days off from school.

Most of the student body was gathered in the auditorium space at FES for a Minute to Win It-style challenge. The kids were there, cheering on classmates who were competing for a calculator.

Yep, a calculator.

It wasn't just any calculator, though - the calculators that were awarded Wednesday were special ones. The number crunchers were awarded as part of a new Math Attack program at FES.

Student advocate Jen Venz developed the program, principal Ben Januschka said. And walking in to FES over the past few weeks, it was pretty evident something was going on.

A colorful display was set up in the school's entryway. In the classrooms, it was business as usual when it came to teaching and learning math. It was what students did outside of the classroom, on their own time,that was the focus.

Venz had found a number of online math challenges students could work on as homework. They could bring home math workbooks or worksheets. There were lots of options for the kids, Januschka said.

"The idea was to do more math outside of the regular school day," he explained.

Students who did the extra work got stickers as credit for their time. Parents or teachers had to sign off to verify the extra work had been done. Once students got their stickers, they could add them to the display in the entryway.

But the display was more than an eye-catching attention getter or a stamp holder. By counting the number of stamps per student on the display, Venz was able to figure out which students did the most minutes of work, per grade and per class, outside of the school. Those kids were invited to participate in the Minute to Win It challenge last week.

Eight students from each grade represented their classrooms in the challenge. Each grade had a different challenge to complete, and tie-breakers were figured in, too. The prize was a traveling calculator trophy that will move from classroom to classroom over the years.

And so, the student body was gathered in the auditorium last Wednesday, cheering on their classmates as they kicked their feet in the air, rolled marbles across the floor in hopes of knocking down chalk sticks and tried to walk while balancing five dice on a stick in their mouths. There were plenty of cheers and lots of clapping. And that's what Januschka was hoping for.

"We wanted to create excitement for math, to make it more than a classroom experience," he said.

Students chalked up more than 22,000 minutes of time doing math problems outside of the classroom.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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