FITCHBURG — There’s no substitute for hard work, dedication and commitment.
At Memorial Middle School, that hard work in the classroom extends well beyond the class day.
Memorial formed a math team, dubbed “Mathletes” and practiced math skills after school every Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the virtual chapter competition held in mid-February.
“After working all day in school, they come into my classroom where I present them with some pretty tough math concepts and problems,” said Memorial teacher and coach Liz Youtt, who co-teaches the team with Mary Lively.
“A good example is the practice where we worked on special right triangles (30-60-90 and 45-45-90). We talked about triangles and then I introduced them to why these triangles are special and how to calculate side lengths. This might seem easy but it required that they learned about Pythagorean theorem and all about radicals. It was a lot of information over the course of two hours, but they are so eager to learn, that they worked through all of the questions and went home and practiced some more. The level of dedication is so clear and commendable.”
Memorial’s nine-member team consists of Clarice Assis Monteiro Ribeiro, Kyle Barreira, Rory Cannon, Elijah Decene, Elizabeth Fey, Medjynn Jean, Jackson Leider, Rowen McGuane and Cristian Ramirez.
To get ready for this competition, students worked with advanced math concepts that challenged them to work at the high school level as middle schoolers.
Mathletes had two rounds of individual competition; the sprint round and the target round. There was also a team component where the top-four placing students are a team and competed with other chapter teams. The students were able to divide out the 10 questions however they wanted and have a time limit to get as much done as possible.
“The competition went well, although nobody placed for the state levels — the kids did a great job though and I am proud to say that they all placed in the top two-thirds. There were a total of 72 competitors in our chapter and our kids scored around 40th out of 72,” Youtt said.
“I think that we at Memorial are honored to have these students on our team, willing to compete on Fitchburg’s behalf with these other schools,” Youtt said. “The unfortunate part was that this chapter-level competition is virtual, so the mathletes did not have the opportunity to network with other students. That being said, being part of a national competitive platform was impressive, and they take this process very seriously and put many hours into preparing.”
Youtt said her team has “a true passion for math and for learning” and she sees that type of passion and commitment on a daily basis.
“A lot of time, because Fitchburg is discussed as an urban district, the conversations seem to be about learning gaps and poverty,” Youtt said. “These students are proving that all students are capable of doing math and that hard work does pay off. They also bring their enthusiasm to their respective classrooms.
“Probably one of my proudest moments to date was when our vice principal, Sean Walker, made an announcement over the PA system about the mathletes who had made it through to the next level (chapter level). You could hear cheering from every classroom in the seventh grade wing. It was one of the moments I will never forget,” Youtt said.
“I think it is important to make sure that we recognize academics as much as sports. To see the excitement that the peers of these mathletes had for them was heartwarming and made me realize that even though the news is all about the bad effects of COVID, I am living every day where I see good kids doing good things,” Youtt said.
Memorial Principal Brittney Lavoie says that she’s so proud of what this team has accomplished already.
“The kids have been incredible,” Lavoie said. “They’ve taken charge of their learning and have extended practice times and have been really pushing each other. Ms. Youtt is a great coach who demands students leave tired, knowing that they are working to their potential and growing from this experience. In our first year, the team knows what a challenge this will be and are ready to meet it. They understand that they are pioneering a legacy for Memorial — they are growing this program for the students that follow and showing all of Massachusetts that Fitchburg students are competitive in the STEM landscape.”
Garner is communications coordinator for the Fitchburg Public Schools.