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MoMathlon Fosters Enthusiasm in NYC Middle Schoolers

MoMathlon Fosters Enthusiasm in NYC Middle Schoolers

Cindy Lawrence helped start MoMath tournaments to keep kids involved in math as they get older—and help them make more math-minded friends.

National Museum of Mathematics MoMathlon math tournaments are happening all over New York City this month for middle school students, a process that will culminate in a Tournament of Champions hosted by MoMath on Wednesday, April 29. The sixth annual tournament aims to bring kids who are enthusiastic about math together in an inclusive environment. Cindy Lawrence, the CEO and executive director of MoMath who arranges the tournament each year, had previously organized inclusive math tournaments on Long Island after she noted a decline in enthusiasm for mathematics between elementary school and high school.

“My daughter came home and announced [they were doing] a new math tournament for elementary school students in Suffolk County, but they were only allowing five kids per team and one team per school. She was worried she wouldn’t make the team,” Lawrence said. Her son was also worried about his high school math tournament: he was an established math star, but couldn’t find four other students to comprise a team.

“In elementary school kids were clamoring to be on the team, and there are four times more kids in the high school, and they couldn’t [form a team]…I thought it would be great to have a middle school tournament to stoke the elementary kids’ excitement, so by the time they got to high school, it would be something they’d naturally participate in,” Lawrence continued.

MoMath tournaments are inclusive. Any city (and Westchester) school can compete anywhere they’re able to, and choose their teams as they see fit. In each of a school’s five team members, Lawrence says, an enthusiasm about math is the most important qualification.

Tournaments also have a social component: “mixed teams” allow kids from all different schools to compete in teams with kids they’ve never met.

“I give them a pep talk and say, we want you to make new friends,” Lawrence says. “Liking math is okay, and it’s an opportunity to meet like-minded students.” These kids will likely see each other at math and STEM competitions as they get older—it’s beneficial to foster these friendships now.

Mixing teams also allows students from schools who might not otherwise win a tournament to take home a prize for math. Lawrence described one girl as “shrieking with excitement” when her team won during a mixed round.

“And I thought, that’s exactly what I want,” Lawrence said. “It gives excitement and math accolades to kids who might not otherwise get them. And they see what they can achieve.”

Tournaments will continue between schools until April 29, when MoMath will host the Tournament of Champions. For more information on how your child can get involved and become empowered through math, visit the MoMath website.


Jacqueline Neber

Author: Jacqueline Neber is a social journalism MA candidate at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. When she’s not reporting, you can find her petting someone else’s dog. See More

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