Math students score one for the team

CCMS students compete with seven schools in math contest, earn first place

PHOTO COURTESY OF LAURIE HOLLIS - The Crook County Middle School Pentagames team took first place at the annual competition held April 22 in Echo. Several individuals also placed. Pictured back row, left, Nathan 'Bubba' Luttrell, Waylon Gray, Zephaniah Portukalian, Jenna Porter, Aiden Rictor and CCMS teacher Matt Fischer. Front row, Casey Hewitt, Abbigail Chaney, Alayna Denney and Hannah Dozhier. Kneeling, Xavier Layne.

Math Tac Toe? Solve that Problem? Math Relay? CR Squared?

Do those mathematical-sounding games sound fun?

They do to nine outstanding Crook County Middle School math students who brought home trophies and ribbons after competing in the annual Pentagames math contest in Northeastern Oregon on April 22.

“The best part was it was about having fun,” said seventh-grader Xavier Layne. “I would like to be a math teacher or scientist, so that’s why it was so fun.”

The CCMS team earned first place overall, edging out two-time defending champion Sunridge Middle School from Pendleton by one point.

“This was the second time in our school history we took first place overall,” CCMS math teacher Matt Fischer said, adding that they also won the title in 2012. “It was the first time, though, that all three grade level teams placed in the top three in their respective divisions.” 

Local Pentagames team members had scored the highest on a try-out test CCMS math teachers gave in March. They came in during a lunch period and answered as many questions as they could, explained Fischer.

Each team can take three seventh-graders, three pre-algebra eighth-grade students, and three algebra students.

The following CCMS students earned a spot at Pentagames: seventh-graders Abbigail Chaney, Casey Hewitt and Xavier Layne; eighth-grade pre-algebra students Alayna Denney, Waylon Gray and Nathan “Bubba” Luttrell; and eighth grade algebra students Jenna Porter, Zephaniah Portukalian and Aiden Rictor.

Hannah Dozhier, an eighth-grader, went as team manager.

“She was just incredible,” Fischer said of Dozhier. “She willingly helped during the games and was very supportive of the rest of her team.”

Pentagames, Inc., a nonprofit organization, facilitates an annual math contest designed to promote mathematics for seventh and eighth grade students. It showcases middle school math in the same way that an athletic contest displays the abilities of the participants.

Fischer, CCMS Office Manager Laurie Hollis and the 10 students traveled to Echo, near Hermiston, for the Friday, April 22 competition. They stayed Thursday night in classrooms at Echo School, a K-12 school, and got to play in the gymnasium.

“The hospitality at Echo was great,” said Luttrell.

“I just really appreciated their hospitality and the chance to stay,” Dozhier said.

The annual contest is held at 10 sites throughout Oregon in late April. Nine-member teams from eight schools in Eastern and Central Oregon attended the contest at Echo School.

Pentagames is made up of five games: Math Tac Toe, Solve that Problem, 35-Minus, CR Squared (Compare, Revise, Revise) and Math Relay. Some games are for individuals and some are for teams.

“The teams get to talk and work together to solve more complicated problems as quickly as they can,” Fischer explained.

The teams and individuals who win these games collect points toward the overall score at the end. Teams who place in the top three for any of these events earn ribbons, and individual winners receive buttons.

“One of the best parts is seeing the students come out of the rooms with their ribbons and buttons. They are so proud and happy,” Fischer said. “It’s actually the best part.”

School teams participate in the Math Relay. Students run to a table and answer questions as quickly as they can and then run and tag the next person in line.

“It’s fast and fun to watch everyone competing. Our team had a lot of spirit — in fact it was the most enthusiastic I have ever seen any team ever,” Fischer said. “Waylon and Bubba definitely led the way in the spirit department.”

Those students both said the relay was the best part because they got to be active.

“It felt good to win,” Waylon Gray said.

An awards presentation followed the relay. Xavier Layne placed fourth as an individual in the seventh grade division. The seventh grade team of Abbigail Chaney, Casey Hewitt and Xavier Layne tied for first place with Sunridge Middle School. Fischer believes this was the first time a seventh grade team placed first.

“My favorite game was CR Squared because we were good at working as a team on that one,” Layne said.

Bubba Luttrell placed fifth as an individual in the pre-algebra division. The eighth grade pre-algebra team of Alayna Denney, Waylon Gray and Luttrell placed third. The eighth grade algebra team of Jenna Porter, Zephaniah Portukalian and Aiden Rictor placed first.

In algebra, Jenna Porter placed first overall and didn’t lose in any event.

“She placed first with Zeph and Aiden in the team games, and as an individual she placed first both times,” Fischer said. “I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Pretty impressive!”

“During the games we get a feeling of how we did, so I pretty much knew I was going to get up there,” Porter said, “But I was still really happy and really surprised.”

Last Wednesday, Porter also won first place in the Oregon Spellers contest and will represent Crook County at the championship at the Oregon State Fair this summer.

Individual winners received trophies, and the teams received medals. 

“We did really well and we all had a lot of fun,” Portukalian said. “It was awesome how we all got to hang out and be together.”