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Rayen Middle math students factor in achievement

By Denise Dick

Monday, March 7, 2011

By Denise Dick


Rayen Early College Middle School students’ math skills add up to success.

The school’s Challenge 24 team placed first, second and fourth at a competition last month at Youngstown Christian School.

Eighth-graders Anthony Douglas, 14, Trey Ingram, 14, and Damon McDowell, 13, earned first, second and fourth-place honors, respectively.

LaRayzhia Tolbert, an eighth-grader at Volney Rogers Middle School, took third place.

“I don’t think people realize what amazing kids we have in the Youngstown City Schools,” said Maureen Donofrio, the team coach and a seventh-grade pre-algebra teacher at the early- college middle school.

The Challenge 24 contest, which included Mahoning County schools, tests competitors math schools. Students gather around a table, on which a card, bearing four numbers, is placed in front of them.

“You have to make all four numbers equal 24,” Anthony explained. “You can use multiplication, addition, division and subtraction.”

When a student believes he or she has an answer, he or she taps the card and announces how to reach 24. If they’re correct, they get points based on the level of difficulty of the problem.

Some of the cards bear single digits while others have double digits for the kids to calculate.

In the higher grades, contestants work with variables, exponents and fractions.

Anthony said variables are his favorite. Damon’s and Trey’s favorite is fractions.

Fellow eighth-grader Dezjheaun Nix, 14, prefers the cards with double digits.

Seventh graders Jordan Rawl, 12, Carlos Hall, 13, and Jah-Nice Berry, 13, made it to the semifinals of the contest. Sixth graders Anaelie Marrero, 11, and Ralph Reddinger, 12, also finished strong.

Ralph likes working with algebraic exponents .

“It’s easy to me,” he said. “I just like math, and they involve more math.”

All of the students list math as their favorite subject.

Besides Donofrio, other math teachers of the students are Shalynn Keller, who teaches sixth grade, and Reuben Asempapa, eighth-grade math teacher. Donofrio also credits Mary Ann Whiteleather, a teacher at Volney who used to teach fourth grade at Kirkmere Elementary.

“For a long time you could tell the students who had Mrs. Whiteleather,” Donofrio said. “She worked a lot with them on Challenge 24.”

They practice in school, but sometimes play at home.

Anaelie and Carlos also play online at home.

Carlos also challenges his sister with the cards. She’s older than him.

“I still beat her,” he smiled.

They also play during lunch, Donofrio said.

“I’m proud of these boxes,” she said, pointing to the bent corners of the boxes that hold the cards. “It shows that they’re well used.”