The competition is held at Taupō Intermediate School and is the culmination of weeks of preparation and planning for participating students. Teams compete against each other in teams of three to answer as many of the twenty problem solving style questions as possible within the allocated time. Problem solving in mathematics contributes to teaching students how to solve real world mathematical problems and demonstrates how problem solving is important outside of school.
nzmaths.co.nz recommends Polya’s (1945) four stages of problem solving and this is the method Wairakei Primary School maths extension students are taught. The four stages are:
- Understand and explore the problem
- Find and select a strategy
- Use the strategy to solve the problem
- Reflect on the solution - find a new strategy if necessary
The students met once, sometimes twice a week for 8 weeks prior to the competition. Training sessions involved working through questions from previous years and practising using the four stages of problem solving.
Right from the start, the students worked in their team of three and had to learn how to work together to solve problems.
Mock competitions were held twice to give the students a taste of what the competition would be like. They worked together to solve each problem as quickly as possible before being given the next problem. Incorrect answers result in points being deducted so an emphasis is placed on step one of the problem solving process during training sessions.
Competition night is super exciting for the students. There are always pre-competition nerves but these soon pass as the timer starts and the teams begin. Each team has an allocated judge whom is responsible for marking each problem and providing the competitors with the next question. Each correct answer is worth five points, while one or more incorrect attempts gains a maximum of three points. Students can pass but will forfeit all points for that problem.
Read Year 6 student Evie's account of the evening
On Wednesday, September 21 2022 we had the Mathsmatters competition at Taupō Intermediate School. When I got there, I went and found Lizzie, one of my teammates. We talked for a while until we decided to go into the main part of the hall. We soon found our other teammate, Taylor. She had been there since 6:OO pm, because her sister was in the year 5 team. We waited for the results of the year 5s, then we went on a hunt to find our table.
I had lots of nerves, but neither of my teammates did. I guess I'm just too competitive. We talked for a while, telling each other to just have fun. Soon the person marking us came. Then a lady walked on stage, and began to explain the rules, and then, the competition began.
We worked out the first few questions with ease, getting 5 points each time. But then the questions got harder. Before we knew it was finished. Our time was up. We got to question 19, with only about 5 passes. We didn't get a medal, but at least we had fun - most of the time . I loved the competition, and I would love to do it again.