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Problem-solving Frazier kids national champions

| Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To sum it up, Frazier Middle School equals the best math students in the nation.

The middle school eighth-graders have topped the nation in March Math Madness, sponsored by Apangea Learning.

Unlike that other national March Madness event, Frazier won not by shooting hoops but by solving quotations, thousands upon thousands of equations.

Since March 1, Frazier students completed 132,023 math problems and worked on math for 2,175 hours; 1,161 hours outside of the traditional school day, said Lisa Wise, Apangea Learning manager of training and motivational programs.

"Way to go, Frazier!" Wise said.

The eighth grade - 74 students - under the guidance of math teacher Susan Szelc, took the competition seriously, but they enjoyed themselves, too.

"The kids were the players on the team," Szelc said. "I was the coach, and our game was math. The students were certainly the real math stars.

"I'm thrilled, the kids are thrilled. It was quite an accomplishment. When the announcement came over, they were over the top."

Students worked on the Internet-based supplemental math challenge during a weekly math lab in school and also at home. Students worked to solve the most problems to advance to the next round.

More than 1,400 schools from 30 states entered the qualifying round Jan. 17. By Feb. 28, those had been subtracted down to the Sweet 16.

Frazier had never come so far in the three-year-old competition.

The eighth grade was one of four seeds in Apangea Nation East.

"They were ranked second in the Sweet 16," middle school Principal Michael Turek said. "Parents told me (students) didn't play with their PlayStations at home. They did Apangea instead."

During the six-week qualifying round, Frazier students completed 40,408 problems and spent 928 hours on Apangea Math; 348 of them outside of class.

They advanced to the Elite Eight and the Final Four.

Despite a week of PSSA testing, the students remained committed to the competition, completing 93,000 problems and working on math for 1,488 hours; 645 outside class from March 1-23, the day the buzzer sounded and Frazier advanced to the Championship Round.

They faced Roosevelt Elementary School in Boise, Idaho, part of Apangea Nation West.

Frazier will receive the coveted March Math Madness Trophy and a banner for the gym presented at a pep rally to be scheduled.

Alex Lyons, MVP East, passed 530 math units without failing, Wise said. He will receive an "iPod nano."

Two more students will be recognized at the rally and each will receive an "iPod touch" for completing the most problems during March.

"The students are being recognized nationally," Turek said.

In addition to the competition and national recognition, Apangea benefits students year-round.

"Frazier School District implemented Apangea four years ago," Szelc said.

"Apangea is, by far, the best supplemental math program I have ever encountered. It is an individualized, motivating, research-based and contains strong math content.

Szelc said the system is standards based.

"Apangea can remediate students who struggle with certain math concepts, while it also accelerates and challenges stronger math students," Szelc said.

Szelc said Apangea also offers a powerful aid to students: access to live help with math-certified tutors for additional assistance.

The competition helps add interest, too.

"I am anxious to see and hold the trophy," Szelc said. "I liken it to the Stanley Cup of math trophies."

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