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Sweet competition draws interest

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
MARILYN FORBES I FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Teamwork is important as team members Colton Layhue, 15, and Jesse Yensick, 15, work together on an application.
MARILYN FORBES I FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Working on problems are Yough team members (from left) Abby Squires, 14, Samantha Peebles, 14, and Lexi Novak, 14.

Since the irrational number “pi” is often abbreviated to 3.14, it is only fitting that a math competition be held March 14, which is the 14th day of the third month.

The Penn State Fayette Eberly campus hosted its annual Pi Day, welcoming students from all over the area to compete in a fun and interesting math competition.

And the winners get?

Pie.

“This is a fun competition for ninth- and 10th-grade students and a great way to keep these kids more interested in math,” said Penn Sate campus associate professor of Engineering Dave Meredith, adding that the schools participating send the top students to compete, with everyone hoping for the sweet prize. “We give the top three teams pie. We thought that was a fitting prize for Pi Day.”

Meredith has been hosting the event for 14 years and says the competition is an interesting way to work on complex math problems.

“This was all started as a fun thing to do,” Meredith said.

This year, four school districts sent teams, with a total of 20 teams that competed.

“We have 20 teams of six,” Meredith said, adding that the districts that competed this year include Yough, Uniontown, Laurel Highlands and Ringgold.

Yough math teacher Jeff Betlan brought three teams to compete, choosing both gifted students and students who were strong in mathematics.

“I brought gifted students and I brought other students,” Betlan said. “I always tell the kids that they don't have to be gifted to be special.”

Betlan said that over the years, he has brought some teams that have done very well in the competition.

“I had a team of girls that placed the second highest in the history of the event,” Betlan said.

Another math teacher from Yough, Steve Ohler, said that he believes the competition is beneficial in ways other then solving math applications.

“We really have to be a part of the team to do well in a competition like this, but then that applies to everything in life,” Ohler said. “No matter what career you choose, you have to be able to perform as a team. It's something important to learn now.”

The students had one hour to work on 20 problems that were then scored by the judges.

“These kids are the best of the best,” Meredith said. “These are the kinds of kids that could someday solve our global problems. They do it well and they get things done.”

The winning team was “Cherry” from Laurel Highlands, second place was team “Date” from Ringgold and the third team was “Apple” from Yough.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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