March Math Madness
At Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, ‘Math Madness’ Sparks Healthy Competition
This month at PVC, students in grades 5-8 have been competing in a unique, March Madness-themed academic challenge: Math Madness. Like college basketball’s NCAA tournament, Math Madness pits teams against each other in an elimination-style bracket, with one team finally emerging victorious.
Each of the sixteen teams is made up of students from the same grade—i.e. all sixth-graders or all eighth-graders—and the winner of each matchup is decided based on which team averaged more lessons passed in the Imagine Math software program. In order to give the lower-scoring teams a chance to continue to participate, there is also a Wild Card bracket, the winner of which earns the right to be among the final three teams in the tournament.
Because Imagine Math scales lessons based on the performance of each individual student, every Math Madness matchup is inherently fair, even if eighth-grade algebra students are pitted against fifth-graders. In fact, the three teams left heading into the final weekend are all made up of fifth and sixth-graders. PVC math teachers say that the younger students get an additional thrill from beating their older peers. One sixth-grade student, Anirudh, has already completed nearly 300 lessons for the team that is currently in the lead.
"I am proud of myself for completing so many challenges, but it is really about working together as a team,” said Anirudh. “I enjoy the competition, and I am confident that we are going to win.”
This is the third year that PVC has held a Math Madness tournament (last year’s was cancelled due to the onset of the pandemic). PVC math teachers have always found that students complete more Imagine Math lessons during March than any other month thanks to the extra motivation that competition brings; but this year the students seem even more fired up.
“It’s wonderful to see our students getting so excited about math and challenging each other to complete more and more lessons,” said math teacher Tracey Finan. “There have been precious few opportunities for collaboration and healthy competition during this period of hybrid learning, and all of the teams have really gone all-out for Math Madness. A few members of the final three teams have even been trying to figure out the pace at which their opponents are completing lessons!”
Members of the winning team will receive a championship trophy as well as the opportunity to run three victory laps around the school, but for many of the participants, the bragging rights are the biggest motivator.
The winner of Math Madness will be announced on Tuesday, April 6th. Regardless of who triumphs, it has been a fun and exciting tournament for all of the students involved, and the PVC Math Department looks forward to continuing this tradition in years to come.