Colorado State University Math Students Coach Tavelli Elementary Into 2nd Place at Math League

Tavelli Elementary School’s 6th grade math team placed second at the 2009 Colorado Math League competition with the help of Colorado State University coaches who collaborate with the Poudre School District’s Gifted and Talented Program.

In the four years CSU students have been working with Tavelli, the team has placed, in chronological order, 15th, 12th, eighth and now second, out of 43 teams in the state. This year Tavelli placed only behind the Denver Challenge School, which is a school for gifted students.  

Among Tavelli’s top-10 finishers were: Connor Fritz, Ben Wdowik and Sammi Jones.

Thirty-eight 5th and 6th grade students took the 40-question multiple choice test. The top five scores determined the overall team score. The Tavelli team includes Wdowik, Fritz, Jones, Carlisle Olsen, and 5th grader Trel Johnson. These students are in advanced math classes in the "Going Beyond" program taught by Bev Bachman.

Mary Pilgrim, an interdisciplinary doctorate student in math and education at CSU, and Kyle Traff, an undergraduate computer science major at CSU, coached the Tavelli math team.  

"Basically we meet weekly and talk math," said Traff. "We have been focusing on building speed and strategy towards problem solving, specifically with the types of word problems you find in Math League tests."

Pilgrim and Traff prepared the students by using a variety of activities including math Sudoku puzzles; Math Rocketman, which is similar to hangman but with numbers; tournaments using the math game 24; challenge questions and collaborative 7th grade level practice exam questions.

"We maintained a relaxed and fun environment with the kids," said Pilgrim.

"It’s exciting to see kids who have a passion for solving challenging problems. Being able to be a part of helping them learn critical thinking skills is rewarding, and I always find myself humbled when one of them finds a way to solve a problem that I haven’t thought of myself or is much more creative or easier than what I had been thinking," Traff said. "It’s a definite plus to see tangible results, but Tavelli’s placement honestly doesn’t matter a whole lot to me. I was content with seeing them learn together and get a chance to challenge them early on."