Carson Oystryk’s enthusiasm for math is almost contagious.
Parkview Elementary’s math club primary students normally meet on Mondays and intermediates on Wednesdays during lunch hour.
Last Thursday, principal Val Edgell arranged a special club meeting, bringing the primary and intermediates together to solve puzzles, either individually or in groups, eat popcorn (a math club perk) and chat with the News.
Oystryk, who is in Grade 5, was first in the door, wide eyed and excited. He says he can’t wait for an upcoming field trip to the UBC Okanagan campus Edgell has planned for the club, to show them what they are capable of.
“I’ve always wanted to go to university,” said Oystryk. “Probably because I would never have the money to go to a university, but actually seeing a university is going to be really cool.”
Asked why he joined the club, Oystryk said he’s good at math, and when he heard the club was starting he had to join.
“I really wanted to join so I could actually know more stuff than what I’m supposed to know in my grade,” said Oystryk. “I kind of just wanted an extra bit of work just because I love math. It’s probably my favourite subject.”
As things get underway, the students waste no time getting into the popcorn and mathematical problem solving. Some are working on a mathematics-based puzzle modelled after Sudoku called Calkudoku, while others are working on a block-based puzzle called Skyscrapers. And there’s not a calculator or cell phone to be seen.
When math club began, Edgell says most of the students involved were working on puzzles at or below their grade level. Now they’re working at or above their grade level.
Grade 4 student Nash Rutherford is one of those club members working on puzzles above his grade level. Asked if he had any future plans, perhaps involving math, Rutherford said he’s leaning more towards the arts.
“I was actually thinking of being an artist once I’m old enough. I would just draw pictures and sell them,” Rutherford commented.
One of the things club members do is compete online in the Caribou Contests math tests, open to students world over. Last year four members, Nash Rutherford, Colton Fleming, Neo Moren and Daisy May Munro finished in the top 50 per cent. Rutherford is currently in the top two per cent.
In one corner of the room, working on a Skyscraper puzzle, is a group of Grade 7s: Connor Schmitz, Scott Rokosh, Ty Sigvaldason and Mikki Horsfield. Asked if they’ve come across a question they haven’t solved, they answer no.
“Most of the questions, you’ve just got to think about them and you’ll figure them out,” said Schmitz.
“It’s a group effort kind of thing, you work together,” added Sigvaldason.
Edgell explains the boys spent an entire lunch hour trying to figure out one question, not stopping until it was done
“They just stick at it until they’ve finally got it,” said Edgell, noting the math problems the boys are solving now are way more difficult than the ones they were doing at the beginning of the year. “I see a huge growth in their problem-solving abilities and in their classroom.”
Edgell is undeniably proud of her math club students, who she says are working very hard at improving their brain power – seemingly having a great deal of fun in the process.
When the club is over, some of kids are asking to take their unfinished puzzles home.
“Who asks for that?” says Edgell, floored by the enthusiasm of her math club kids.