MATHCOUNTS: Kendal Residents Help Langston Students Prepare

Ray with math studentThe opportunities for intergenerational activity continue, this time with Oberlin’s Langston Middle School. The following article appeared in a recent issue of the Oberlin News Tribune. The event was held at Kendal and members of Kendal’s Publicity Plugs group wrote the story and took the photographs. 

For five hours on Saturday, February 1, the halls and dining rooms of Kendal at Oberlin were vibrant with the happy-sounding voices of eighteen Langston Middle School boys and girls who were attending the Langston MATHCOUNTS Contest and Celebration.

Ken Stanley, Vice President of the Oberlin School Board and Director of the DuBois Project (, promoter of the school contest at Kendal, stated that his motivation for hosting the school event at Kendal was three-fold:  1) Make it as much like the MATHCOUNTS  event that will be held at Lorain County Community College on February 15 as possible by hosting in a place that is unfamiliar to most of them.  2)  Give the Langston MATHCOUNTS Team a bit of a send-off before the competition.  3) Give the Kendal residents a chance to see the DuBois Project in action.

The DuBois Project helps underrepresented minorities and children from low socioeconomic families achieve and maintain excellence in the Oberlin Public Schools by helping them learn to enjoy math.  According to Stanley, initially, the DuBois Project focused on younger children.  They started their work with middle school students last year and expanded it this year.

Ira and math studentsThe format for the MATHCOUNTS event at Kendal included three timed rounds:  The Sprint, 40 minutes; The Target, 30 minutes; The Team contest, 20 minutes. Calculators were allowed in the Target round and in the Team round. Rounds were followed by consensus-building periods.

Stanley said that three parents, an uncle, five Kendal residents (George Andrews, Dick Baznik, Ira Steinberg, Ray LeGrand, Virginia Erdy, and two Oberlin College students joined the students in order to help make math fun for the students.  According to Stanley, Dick Baznik helped organize the project, and took pictures.

Since early January, Kendal resident Sam Goldberg, Oberlin College Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, has been working with the Varsity Math Team regularly, Tuesdays through Fridays at Langston and on Saturdays at the Science Center.  At the Langston MATHCOUNTS Contest and Celebration, the Varsity Math Team participated in the morning Sprint Round.  Sample problems:  1. Two men stand back-to-back and walk in opposite directions for 40 yards each, each of them then turns left and walks another 30 yards each.  In yards, how far are the two men from each other?  2.  How many common fractions strictly between 0 and 1 have a denominator of at most 6 when written in lowest terms?  (Note:  answers are at the end of this article.)  In the afternoon, the Target Round gave students four pairs of two problems each, with 6 minutes to solve each pair.  The final 20-minute Team Round had 10 problems to solve with students now allowed to work together.

According to Ken Stanley, “For the Varsity Math Team, this was a great warm up for the Lorain County MATHCOUNTS Competition to be held at LCCC on February 15.  For the others, it was a chance to enjoy math and to tackle some serious math challenges.”

At the conclusion of the day, an overheard student comment was, “Thank you for the experience.”

(Answers to problems:  1. 100 yards; 2. 11 fractions)

See more photos in the Photo Gallery