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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Math is Cool: Liberty Lake fifth-graders win championship

A team of Liberty Lake Elementary fifth-graders swept the top spots at a recent Spokane Math Is Cool competition done entirely online.

The team as a whole won first place and team members took the top four spots in the individual portion of the competition. In all, seven of the 11 team members who competed were in the top 11 in the individual competition. Of those seven, six are girls, said Liberty Lake Elementary Principal Jennifer Tesky.

“I love the fact that our girls are highly competitive,” Tesky said.

The team started meeting for practice twice a week after school in November. When schools closed, they started meeting with coaches Joe Frank and Sowmya Surapaneni on Zoom every week. “The coaches were having them do some challenging activities,” Tresky said. “They work on some very challenging mathematics. They’re working on everything up to ninth-grade math.”

Though the team members stayed engaged, Tesky said they originally thought they wouldn’t be able to compete this year. “Normally Liberty Lake does really well at the competition,” she said.

The local competition is usually held at Mt. Spokane High School every year and this year a virtual option was developed. “It was a pretty unique way to let them have their competition,” she said.

The students were excited to get to compete after all, she said. “Last year, as fourth-graders, they took first place and they were really hoping to hold on to their title,” Tesky said.

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Learning and Teaching Terrie VanderWegen said she’s pleased that the community, students and parents were able to come together to put on a virtual competition for the students who had been practicing for months. “We’re just really grateful for that collaboration,” she said.

In normal times the team would now advance to the regional Math is Cool competition based on their first-place finish. But Tesky said she hasn’t heard yet if there will be one.

The Liberty Lake Elementary team competed in Division Phi. Members are Brody Butler, Abby Clevenger, Zayn Dawud, Breanna Everts, Maira Frank , Lukas Hallowitz, Bannon Hanf, Kayla Jensen, Logan Mattioda, Addison Powers and Sindhu Surapaneni.

Tesky said she believes Math is Cool helps make math fun and helps students realize it isn’t really that hard. “I think it gives them even more self-confidence,” she said. “I think it helps our students believe in themselves.”

The school’s fourth-grade team didn’t participate in the virtual competition, but Tesky said she’s glad the fifth-graders did.

“I’m really proud of the fifth-grade group,” she said. “It took grit and determination to continue working on this every day even though they didn’t have to.”

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