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Timberland Charter Academy Eighth Graders Participate in Muskegon MathCounts Competition

Seven Timberland Charter Academy eighth graders recently competed in a MathCounts Competition at Muskegon Community College (MCC). One of the students, Juan Salazar-Ceja, placed in the top 10 for the day’s competition. The top two students from the Muskegon competition go on to compete at the state level, and there is a national competition, as well.
Two Timberland staff members were the coaches, Eighth-Grade Math Teacher Mary Amy Bajt and Math Instructional Coach Dionne Oberlin. The eighth graders who participated in the competition were: Lily Brown, Arieona Keys, Daniel Martinez, D’Angelo Phipps, Juan Salazar-Ceja, and twins Kimya and Kimyra Starks.
 Timberland MathCounts Competition team
Timberland MathCounts Competition team (front row L to R) twins Kimya Starks, Kimyra Starks, and Arieona Keys, (back row L to R) Mrs. Bajt, Mrs. Oberlin, Juan Salazar-Ceja, D'Angelo Phipps, Daniel Martinez, and Lily Brown.

“On Feb. 3, more than 10 schools were in attendance at the MathCounts Competition with more than 60 students participating, Timberland had a student place in the top 10 – wow!” Principal Stephen Evans said. “It was another great day for Timberland. Upon returning to campus, it was observed that many students were asking, ‘how did we do in the competition?’ ‘How did it go?’ As I like to say, ‘We are the best shop in town!’ Special thanks are extended to Mrs. Bajt, and Mrs. Oberlin on a job well done.”
The MathCounts Competition is comprised of four rounds, Sprint, Target, Team and Countdown. Altogether, the rounds are designed to take about three hours to complete.
The Sprint Round focuses on speed and accuracy. Students have 40 minutes to complete 30 math problems without a calculator. The Target Round focuses on problem-solving and mathematical reasoning. Students receive four pairs of problems and have six minutes to complete each pair, with the use of a calculator. The Team Round focuses on problem-solving and collaboration. Students have 20 minutes to complete 10 math problems, with the use of a calculator. Only four students on a school’s team can take this round officially. The Countdown Round focuses on speed and accuracy. Students have a maximum of 45 seconds per problem without a calculator.
“It’s a lot like taking a series of tests for several hours,” Bajt said. “The students didn’t seem to mind and were having fun. I kept telling them it was all about the experience since it was our first time, and that they just needed to do their best and move on. Overall, it was a fantastic experience!”
Bajt and Oberlin began holding weekly practices in early December for the competition. Once a school registers with MathCounts, a variety of resources and practice tests become available to the team to use. Before becoming a teacher at Timberland three years ago, Bajt was an engineer who had judged at the competition in the past.
 Competitors working at their tables.
Here are all the MathCounts competitors are in the Sprint Round.
“It was an amazing day for our students and for us as their coaches,” Oberlin said. “The students’ level of pride was evident as they talked about how many of the math problems they were able to complete or as they shared answers with their teammates to some pretty difficult problems. They represented Timberland well through their work and their interactions with the other schools and community members. They loved seeing the college campus and I heard some students talk about their desire to spend more time seeing what MCC has to offer. It was so awesome to see their smiles as they cheered on their teammate Juan. It is definitely something that I will look forward to next year, but I will miss this group of eighth graders!”
The MathCounts Foundation was established in 1983 by three organizations, one of which was the National Society of Professional Engineers; the Michigan society sponsored the competition in Muskegon at MCC.
“This was an opportunity for our students to see our local college, MCC,” Bajt said. “Several of them had never seen it before and it’s a beautiful campus. We all want our scholars to set their sights on continuing education, so this was a great introduction for a lot of these students to get some first-hand experience at the campus.”
 Students writing at tables.
Timberland students complete another portion of the competition.

For Salazar-Ceja, making it into the top 10 competitor list brought lots of smiles, says Bajt.
“Juan is a very good student across the board. He was really excited, and happy, having a good time, as were all the students with lots of smiles and giggling. It didn’t matter that this is a group that doesn’t normally hang out together very much, you couldn’t tell that day. They were having lots of fun and they were doing math!”

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Timberland Charter Academy
Timberland Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Muskegon, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 99 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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