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Students in prime form during first diocesan math competition


Who would have thought math could be so exciting? The daylong Math Competition held Dec. 2, saw some nail-biting tension and jubilant cheers.

The first interschool Diocesan Math Competition, held at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Orchard Park saw two levels of play. Third- through fifth-graders competed against one another first, followed by middle school students later in the day. Each level had three rounds of competition.

Middle school students went head-to-head in a speed round of the Diocesan Math Competition. The first to solve the problem returned for another until only one student remained. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

The younger students started off with a test featuring 80 questions, with no scrap paper or calculators being used.

“It’s quite hard, but I know you’re up to the challenge,” said by Siobhan Pawelczyk, STREAM program director for the diocese. “If these students can get through 80 questions, they’re better at math than we are. We found them quite difficult too.”

The second round had four questions that had to be solved in 24 minutes. Lastly was the team round where small school groups used calculators and scrap paper to solve 10 questions in 20 minutes.

“You all listened to each other. That’s beautiful to see. You were also respectful of each other’s opinions. We’re very, very proud of you all,” Pawelczyk said at the end of the round.

Abhi Mattala, from St. Benedict School in Eggertsville, placed first in the individual round and with his school, the team round.

He credits hard work with his success.

“I think I practiced a lot and that’s the only reason I got this medal,” he said.

The rest of his team simply said they felt “good” after their victory.

“It’s an honor for a fourth-grader to get something,” said Vincent Majchrzak. “There were not many fourth-grade questions. The fact that I was able to be in this is just amazing. With this medal on, it makes me stand proud.”

The middle school kids had a slightly different schedule. The target round gave the students 24 minutes to solve four pairs of questions. The second round was the team round. The final Countdown Round involved two randomly-generated teams going head-to-head to answer questions involving fractions, cube roots and even Roman numerals on a dry erase board. The first to answer correctly got the opportunity for another question until everyone but one was eliminated. 

“It’s going to be a bit of drama,” said Pawelczyk before the last round. “Stay calm. These questions are challenging.”

Some schools had up to three students in the top 10. In the end, Alex Lane from SS. Peter & Paul School, Hamburg, won. Lane also won the Individual Award and Team Award.

During round three of the Diocesan Math Competition, students worked as a team. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be the best one here.”

What is it about math that appeals to him?

“I’ve always been interested in it” he said. “My brother really likes math too. A few years ago, he told me to try out more advanced math, and I did. And I just kept going.”

The seventh-grader is studying group theory, part of abstract algebra, through a program at the University at Buffalo. He finds math interesting.

“It can be applied to a lot of different things,” he said.

Alex Lane (right) receives some high fives from his team mates after being named winner of the speed round. SS. Peter & Paul School also won the middle school team medal. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Lane and his teammates showed an impressive knowledge, they also showed great pride in their championship.

“It feels good because I like winning,” said Christian Rizzuto. “We thought we were outmatched, but after Alex started winning awards, we kind of knew we were going to win.”

All the students prepared with test questions that even the coaches thought were hard.

“They were impossible,” said Joseph Simon, coach and eighth-grade teacher at SS. Peter & Paul’s. “Even I couldn’t get any of the questions. It’s one of those things that if you know it, you know it. If you don’t, then not much studying will help you. So, we didn’t really practice too much.”

He enjoyed the challenge of the competition.

“I think getting the kids excited about school stuff is always a challenge, so anything we can do to get them excited about learning,” Simon said.

The math competition is part of a series of new events designed to build community among students and school faculty.

 “We wanted to have some community events after the success of the X-STREAM Games,” explained Pawelczyk. “We saw how beneficial it was to have the students gather. We thought it would be great to build some community through educational events, as well as sports events.”

A diocesan spelling bee is planned for Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. at Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore.

 “It was a fun day,” said Pawelczyk. “My most enjoyable part was seeing the team work in the team rounds. The kids were so respectful of each other and really worked together. It was really cool to see.”

Congratulations to …

Individual Winners (grade three-five)

1st Abhi Mattala, St. Benedict School, Eggertsville

2nd Joseph Spillman, St. John the Baptist Kenmore

3rd William Tooley, St. John the Baptist Kenmore

Team Winners (grade three-five)

1st St. Benedict’s Tigers #1

2nd St. John Kenmore’s The Whiz Kids

3rd St. John Kenmore’s Mathletes 

Countdown Round (grade six-eight)

Alex Lane, SS. Peter & Paul School, Hamburg 

Individual Winners (grade six-eight)

1st Alex Lane, SS. Peter & Paul School, Hamburg 

2nd Patrick McWilliams, St. Stephen School, Grand Island 

3rd Mai Mahoney, Christ the King School, Snyder 

Team Winners (grade six-eight)

1st SS. Peter & Paul School, Hamburg’s Alge-bros

2nd Christ the King Math Magicians

3rd Christ the King Algorithm and St. Stephen’s School