Math Masters

Team from Olson Middle School finish third in national math competition

(From Left to Right) Jenny Barton, Kirstyn Loftus, Aidan Lohne and their teacher Juliann Toone of Olson Middle School stand in front of their team sign. Not pictured: Camille Corman of Woodlyn Middle School

A team of four middle schoolers from the area made a trek to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y., to take part in the 11th Annual Math Competition. The contest brings together students from all over the country to test their math skills. Out of 36 teams, the Olson Middle School’s team finished in third place.

The team was comprised of three students from Olson Middle School — eighth-grader Kirstyn Loftus of Tabernacle, and seventh-graders Jenny Barton of Tabernacle and Aidan Lohne of Medford. Camille Corman of Woodlyn Middle School was also a member of the team. Because it is pretty uncommon to have a lot of children with hearing loss in the same school, the rules for the competition stated team members could live within 50 miles of the schools.

“I was really excited,” Jenny said. “We were driving there for about six to eight hours. I was so excited for the whole car ride. I really wanted to go.”

Juliann Toone, the teacher of the deaf at Olson Middle School, found the event.

“NTID is one of the two colleges that they have for deaf students in the country,” Toone said. “I am on the mailing list for both of them, and I got a flyer in the mail. We have such amazingly, wonderful supportive parents. I knew asking them to drive for six hours would probably be fine. I asked if they would be interested, and I went from there.”

The four took part in math that was mostly comprised of pre-algebra and early algebra problems. The students were scored as a team and individually.

“All three of them are in enrichment math, so I knew that it was a good fit when I brought it up, and they were very open to the idea … They were very excited when I mentioned it,” Toone said.

The team was not only recognized for finishing third, Kirstyn and Jenny did well individually and received an unexpected offer.

“A few days after the competition was over, Mrs. Toone got an email from the woman who was in charge of the math competition,” Kirstyn said. “They called us into the principal’s office. The principal and the superintendent were there and we were wondering what was going on. The president of NTID was so impressed with how we did in the individual scores that he offered Jenny and me a full scholarship to a weeklong tech camp for girls at the school in July.”

The competition also allowed the students to do other activities with hearing-impaired students. Contestants were invited to activities such as an ice cream social and swimming.

“I liked the trampoline park,” Aidan said. “I also got to swim, rock climb and share a room with some of the other students. I was also glad I finally won something and got a trophy that I can put next to my father’s ‘Steak by the Lake’ trophies.”

“From a staff and parent perspective, the math part was awesome, but the most important part was socializing with other students with hearing loss,” Toone added.

The team plans to go back next year to the competition. It will be doing it without Kirstyn, who will be heading to high school. However, her sister Morgan, who is in fifth grade, will be joining the team next year. For now, the team is thankful for all the help it received along the way, including their teacher.

“We have known her for six or seven years. If I wanted to tell her something, I could trust her,” Jenny said. “Once you have known someone for that long, it is like you are talking to your parents or siblings. We also owe it to all of our math teachers, elementary school teachers and interpreters because we would not have gotten third place if they were not there.”