Karen Campbell's students love math. So much so, in fact, that some of them will voluntarily complete more than 50 math problems on a Saturday morning in February.

Campbell, teacher of gifted students at York Suburban Middle School, works with about 110 students during the school year to complete Mathcounts problems as enrichment for their math curriculum. On Tuesday, 16 of those students competed in the York County Mathcounts Invitational, held at York College.

The students complete four rounds of competition, all with word problems that require them to comprehend the problem and perform the math equations, which can involve simple addition or advanced geometry and algebra.

"Mathcounts is totally random," Campbell said. "You're not sure what math skill you're going to see in the next problem."

Mental math: That complexity keeps math fresh for students, Campbell said. Instead of learning math concepts from chapter to chapter in their math curriculum, students need to draw from a broad background of math knowledge.

And they love it, Campbell said: One of the teams even meets outside of school to practice. As eighth-graders, they've participated in Mathcounts three times.

"The competition is a real highlight for them," Campbell said.


That team placed first in the invitational for the second year in a row. Those students will participate in the regional competition to take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Millersville University.

Campbell said many of the students are friends outside the Mathcounts practices, which is a benefit because they work well together during the teamwork portions.

Problem solving: Campbell said many of the problems require mental math, though some portions do allow for a calculator. She provides practice sessions once a week before school with the students, to prepare them for the upcoming contest.

The questions are often much more about problem-solving than the math equations themselves, Campbell said. If students can learn the "tricks" behind the questions for comprehension, the math is often straightforward.

The invitational began as an initiative to prepare students for the regional competition, Campbell said. York Suburban was one of 38 schools to participate.

These students took top honors:

Top 3 in written portion: Owen Miller, Emory H. Markle Intermediate School; Maya Lehman, York Suburban Middle School; Jamie Graham, Emory H. Markle Intermediate School

Top 3 in oral "Countdown" portion: Owen Miller; Kaidin Mir-Young, York Suburban Middle School, Maya Lehman

Top overall team: York Suburban Team A: Maya Lehman, Peyton Stuart, Charlotte Nesbitt, Kaidin Mir-Young

-- Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.