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Babb 'mathletes' need box tops to compete

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Students in Babb Middle School's Math Club are trying to revive the group's tradition of participating in math competitions, because they want to challenge themselves. But, they need financial support from the community to reach their goal.

An appeal has gone out to Clayton residents to clip, and send in, the "Box Tops for Education" coupons found on hundreds of everyday products with brand names such as Ziploc, Betty Crocker, Old El Paso, Cottonelle, and Hamburger Helper.

The goal is to raise $500 before February 2009, to pay competition-related fees.

"Box Tops for Education" is a program started by General Mills, Inc., in 1996 to help schools raise money for certain projects. Each "Box Top" coupon has a monetary value listed on it, such as 5 cents, or 10 cents.

Schools collect the coupons, and send them in to the program's coordinators. A check matching the value of the coupons will be sent to the school.

For a complete list of the products which have "Box Tops for Education" coupons on them, go to www.boxtops4education.com.

Anyone who wants to donate box tops to the Math Club, can mail them to the school, "Attn: Shronda Smith -Box Tops Coordinator," at 5500 Reynolds Road, Forest Park, Ga. 30297.

The math club needs the money to defray the cost of transportation and registration. Shrondra Smith, the club's advisor, began collecting the box tops this week.

"The benefit [of the math club] is to further the students' interest in math, and to show them how math is common in everyday life," said Smith.

Math club members already are preparing for spring competitions, and students are improving their performances in the classroom because of what they are doing in the club, Smith said. It has even turned a few math haters into math lovers.

"At first, I didn't like math that much, but now I like it ... They [Smith, and other club members] showed me math could be fun, and they explained it to me in different ways that I could understand," said Arafat Etuacim, 14, a eighth-grader, who is her in her third year as a member of the club.

Smith said the competition aspect of the group has been implemented sporadically over the years. The club has not participated in a math competition since May 2006. It cost the group $525 that year to cover registration and travel costs for five competitions.

A typical Math Club session begins with students playing games that require critical-thinking skills. After the games are over, they break into groups and work together to solve math problems.

Students in sixth-, through eighth-grade will participate in the competitions. Smith said she particularly wanted sixth-graders to join the group because they do not have many chances to get involved in campus life until they reach the seventh grade.

Teachers at Babb are noticing the effects the club is having on its members. Clarissa Haynes, who has taught math at Babb for 11 years, said club members are doing better in class because of their involvement in the group.

"The extra practice allows them to become better at math because they are developing their critical-thinking skills through the games they play during meetings," said Haynes. "It's also affected their speed. They are able to do their work faster in class."

"Some kids just want a place to learn math, but others want more of a challenge, and they want to compete," Smith said. "We had a good number of kids who were asking when are we going to compete."

This year, the club will only participate in four math competitions, or events which work like competitions. The first of those is Rex Mill Middle School's Math Night, which will be held today from 4 p.m., to 6 p.m., at Rex Mill.

It is not officially a competition, but it is still an opportunity for Babb students to measure themselves against pupils from another school.

The school system will also compete in the annual Clayton County math competition in May 2009, but the school system pays for those registration costs.

However, Babb's Math Club plans to participate in other competitions outside the county, which will cost more money to attend. One of those is the Dwight Love Math Tournament in March 2009, in Norcross.

The other competition is the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics Math Competition, which is still being planned, but is traditionally held in April, said Smith.