By Curt Yeomans
Thousands of children from across Georgia will have only four things on their minds on Saturday when they visit Clayton County.
Addition. Subtraction. Multiplication. Division.
Six thousand students, from 63 schools, will descend upon the Georgia International Convention Center, 2000 Convention Center Concourse, next to Camp Creek Parkway in Atlanta, to participate in this year's MathFest competition.
It will begin with kindergartners striving to show who's the best in Georgia when it comes to crunching numbers in a 9 a.m., session. Sixth-graders will be the last students to compete at MathFest at 6:30 p.m.
The annual math competition is organized by E.W. Oliver Elementary School Principal Ron Boykins. "You can't make children become competitive in math, if you don't give them opportunities to compete," Boykins said.
E.W. Oliver Elementary and B.C. Haynie Elementary School are the only Clayton County schools participating in this year's MathFest. Boykins extended an invitation to all Clayton students, regardless of whether their schools are signed up for the event.
Any Clayton student, whose school is not participating in MathFest, can go to the event's web site, www.mathfestcompetition.com, by Friday and sign up for the competition, Boykins said. Those students won't have to pay a fee to participate in the event.
Students also will come from metro Atlanta school systems, including Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton and Atlanta, as well as from schools as far away as Macon.
"It's all about getting kids excited about math and science, whether that's in Clayton County, or in other parts of Georgia," Boykins said.
The competition is held in two phases. In both phases, the students are given a marker, a towel and a dry-erase board. The children use these tools to answer the math questions they are given. Once they have determined the answer to a question, they write it on the board and wait for a monitor, who has an answer key, to come by and check the answer.
The first phase of MathFest includes the early rounds of competition for each grade level. This phase is held in one of the convention center's larger rooms to accommodate as many as 800 students per grade level.
At the beginning of the competition, the students are given a stack of cards made out of construction paper. Every time a child answers a question incorrectly, the student loses a card. Once a student runs out of cards, that pupil is eliminated.
Once there are 75 children left from each grade level, the second phase of competition begins. The contestants are taken into a smaller lecture room, and continue to whittle down the number of students until a champion is crowned. During this phase, parents are not allowed to observe their child's progress.
The children start over with a fresh set of cards in the second phase of the MathFest.
Meanwhile, math-oriented games, and speakers will be set up in another large room at the convention center. Math and science Advanced Placement (AP) students from Lovejoy, Mundy's Mill and North Clayton high schools will talk to children about what it's like to prepare for college. The Federal Aviation Administration will have a flight simulator set up, Boykins said.
Additionally, officials from the Georgia Council on Economic Education will announce the winners of the spring Georgia Stock Market Game at 2 p.m. Oliver Elementary had seven teams finish in the top 10 statewide, iand won the state championship, during the fall stock market competition.
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