SMS MATHCOUNTS Earns First place at Central Iowa Competition


Congratulations to the South Middle School (SMS) MATHCOUNTS team: Hima Joseph, Nathan Koch, Ben Fahrenkrug, Danny Drake and alternate Kaitlyn Severson who took first place in the Central Iowa Competition on February 10 and will go on to compete at the state level. Special congrats to Hima Joseph who took first place in the individual competition and Charlie Barry and Arjun Thanttankandy who also qualified for the state competition as individuals. This is the first time that a middle school in Waukee Community School District has won a MATHCOUNTS regional event!

There are 12 members of SMS MATHCOUNTS: Hima Joseph, Nathan Koch, Danny Drake, Ben Farenkrug, Kaitlyn Severson, Megan Severson, Arjun Thattankandy, Charlie Barry, Ryan Herren, Becca Heidt, Sree Panuganti and Miranda Basart.  Each of the 10 SMS team members who competed at regionals finished in the top 25 out of 275 participants.

Students in MATHCOUNTS meet weekly to practice solving complex math problems and participate in a variety of competitions. SMS MATHCOUNTS is led by math teachers Christopher Lansink, who is in his second year at SMS and Kristin Grotewold, who is in her fifth year.

Competitions begin with a sprint round, where students take a 30-problem test in 40 minutes. Next is the target round, where students complete eight total problems, two at a time. Then there is the team round, where teams of four compete against the other groups by taking a test. Finally, students are numbered off in the order that they finished and they compete in a head-to-head countdown challenge.

“It is like something you would see on TV where there is a problem put up on a screen and the first person to buzz in correctly wins. Each time I watch the students in the countdown round, I am amazed at their ability to state the correct answer as I am still reading through the question. The students’ problem solving abilities are the best part!” Grotewold said.

“We could not have the team that we do without our many dedicated parent volunteer coaches, such as Chris Brown and Jim Heidt. They put their heart and soul into preparing our students each and every year,” Grotewold said.

Eighth grader Hima Joseph says that the tips and tricks they learn from Brown and Heidt are of great help during competitions.

“It felt pretty awesome to win regionals because SMS had never done that! We did not know that it would happen, but our team cooperated better than ever before and pulled through when it mattered,” Joseph said.

In addition to attending scheduled practices at SMS and Saturday group sessions at the Heidt house, Joseph will also be reviewing the quick, basic facts that can be difficult to recall in the middle of a test. Joseph, who claims that MATHCOUNTS has trained her to perform better under high pressure situations, is also involved in many other activities, including band, chorus and swimming.

Eighth grader Danny Drake prepares for competitions by making sure he gets a good night’s sleep, eats a healthy breakfast and works on the practice problems the coaches send out.

“My goal was for us to earn the cool triangle-shaped trophies. And we did!” Drake said.

MATHCOUNTS has allowed Drake to solve problems in class much quicker than he would be able to without the practice and tips he has acquired. Drake is also active in other extracurriculars, such as soccer and basketball. Drake and Joseph have been involved in MATHCOUNTS all three of their middle school years.

SMS MATHCOUNTS coaches encourage students to give the club a try; there are plenty of opportunities for students to get involved.

The State MATHCOUNTS competition will be held on March 20 in Des Moines.

560 Southeast University Avenue
Waukee, Iowa 50263
Phone 515.987.5161
Fax 515.987.2701