Math students vie in Campbell

Correspondent photo / Sean Barron From left, Rylie Stellano, a Boardman Center Intermediate School student; Grace Papini, a sixth-grade math teacher at Campbell Elementary / Middle School; Kenny Kraft of St. Charles School in Boardman; and Lawson Franks, a Canfield Middle School student, compete in Tuesday’s Math 24 event at the Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center in Campbell.

CAMPBELL — Exarhena Kefalianos’ short-term goal was to incorporate basic math functions to reach a specific number, but suffice it to say that one of her general long-term goals adds up to something far greater.

“Math is one of my better subjects, but I love all subjects,” Exarhena, a Campbell Elementary / Middle School fifth-grader, said, adding, “I want to have a career helping people with anything they need, and bring goodness in the world.”

Exarhena, whose school math menu consists of learning to add fractions and reviewing previous concepts, likely brought a dose of goodness to her table of two or three other students via doing her part to use a bit of numerology. That’s because she was among those who competed in a Math 24 tournament Tuesday evening at the Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center, 436 Struthers-Coitsville Road.

Sponsoring the friendly competition was the Michael “Mickey” Soroka Charitable Foundation, named in honor of the late Soroka, a popular Campbell High School math teacher, assistant football coach and Math Club adviser who died in April 2011. He was 49.

An estimated 120 students in grades four to eight representing eight schools in Mahoning and Trumbull counties competed in the math contest.

Also among them was Graca Nelson, a Campbell Elementary / Middle School fourth-grader, who said math is her favorite subject. Multiplication and three-digit division are the two main aspects Graca is learning in her class, she added.

“I got a letter saying I made it to the top eight in the competition,” Graca said about how she ended up in Tuesday’s Math 24 event.

It may be a while before she decides on a career, but becoming a decoder or obtaining another high-tech position is on her radar screen, Graca explained.

Early in the competition, the students were given sets of cards, each with four random numbers. They were tasked with using multiplication, division, addition and subtraction — and all four of the numbers — to total 24, Grace Papini, a sixth-grade math teacher at Campbell Elementary / Middle School, noted.

In the process, they also were allotted limited amounts of time to vocalize each step they were using to get to 24, she said.

The event also featured varying levels of difficulty, with later cards containing double digits and, depending on the grade level, integers and variables, Papini added. Students in each grade played others of the same grade, with the exception of the seventh- and eighth-graders, who were combined.

Everyone played the first two rounds before medals were given to those who made it to the semifinal round. The top four finishers in each grade were awarded a trophy; 16 trophies were distributed, Papini said, adding that 64 medals also were given.

“It’s something they’ll always remember,” she continued.

Each table of students also was accompanied by a proctor, whose duties included keeping track of and handing cards to those who solved the challenge, as well as listening to the competitors to ensure their steps were correct, Teri Thomas, a math professor at Stark State College in Canton, noted.

Among those who served in that capacity were Youngstown State University students and fellow math teachers and coaches.

Thomas said she hopes the competition also will instill in the students the value of problem solving, along with the importance of working collaboratively, thinking outside of the box and seeing that more than one method can be used to come up with solutions to math problems and, by extension, many life challenges.

Eric Gonzales, a trustee with the nonprofit Soroka Charitable Foundation and the technology director for the Campbell School District, recalled that Soroka, a 1980 Campbell Memorial High School graduate, was a beloved figure who often availed himself to students outside of school hours who sought his help.

“He had a big impact on the community,” said Gonzalez, who added he was one of Soroka’s students.

In addition, the foundation awards four scholarships annually and has raised more than $80,000 for the Campbell city schools, he continued.



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