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They Figure It's Fun : Students Combine Wit and Teamwork at Mathematics Competition


FOUNTAIN VALLEY — They came facing long odds--not to mention evens, integers, pluses and minuses.

But for the 400 Orange County fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders who attended the 3rd Annual Mathematics Field Day at Los Amigos High School Saturday, matching wits made for good fun.

In the construction derby, teams of students put their heads together to design paper airplanes that would fly farther and longer than the competition.

"Call us the boys of destiny," said David Zickman, 10, of Riverdale Elementary School in Orange, displaying some preflight confidence.

"Call him the boy of destiny, call us smart," replied teammate Chris Nelson, also 10.

Zickman and company, equipped with eight pieces of paper, four drinking straws, one paper clip, scissors and tape, drafted, tested and retested their entry before toeing the line and releasing their "Masterglider."

The traditionally styled paper airplane with a straw taped along its mid-fold, sailed down a hallway for 2 1/2 seconds before it hit a desk and took a nosedive. But the flight was long enough for the crew to claim victory over two other fifth-grade teams.

In keeping with countywide teaching methods, the events stressed working together to develop a common solution, said coordinator Marelle Dorsey. About 54 elementary schools were represented at the competition.

Dorsey, a former teacher and member of the Orange County Mathematics Council, which sponsored the event, said the participants were not necessarily the best math students at their schools, but students who worked well in groups. Teachers selected the students who attended, she said.

"It's really great to see these kids work together as one," she said. "Usually the students who can share ideas and come to a consensus do the best."

The top six finishers in each grade group earned medals.

In a session on logic later in the morning, students were given a half-hour to solve 10 imposing word problems. For Lindsay Yourman of Lincoln Elementary, the phase was fun but "complicated."

Chris Fore saw the whole outing as a way to bone up on his already-chosen profession as an airplane engineer.

"My dad designs airplanes and someday I want to," the 10-year-old said. "He uses math a lot in his work, so I have to be good at it if I want to do the same thing."

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