Gresham top Matific school in state, 15th nationwide

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Gresham School District Superintendent Newell Haffner announces the good news about the school winning the state Matific competition as math teacher Taylor Welcing, center, and Matific representative Sean Tiernan stand behind the medals and trophies that would later be distributed.

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Gresham Community School students go through a line to get pizza and soda Friday afternoon following an assembly announcing the school was ranked first in Wisconsin and 15th in the nation in Matific. The international program provided the food and drinks for the more than 150 students who participated.

An educational celebration Friday at Gresham Community School was done by the numbers, with certificates and medals — and pizza.

Gresham had plenty to celebrate, as the small school beat out larger competitors like Stevens Point, D.C. Everest and Wisconsin Dells to be the top-ranked Wisconsin school in the Matific contest, an online program that makes solving math problems fun. If that wasn’t enough, the local school was ranked 15th in the nation out of 3,000 participating schools.

Sean Tiernan, a Matific representative from Greenville, Wisconsin, noted that Matific got its start eight years ago in Australia and Israel but didn’t become prevalent in the United States until three years ago. The program is designed to help bridge the historic gap between students learning math, he said.

“We’re in 47 different countries, and the program is in 30 different languages. It’s pretty interesting,” Tiernan said. “It’s to get kids to have a love for math,” as well as introduce students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, programs.

Tiernan said he was working at a sixth-grade math level when he was a high school senior. The difference between then and now is the way math is taught, he said.

“It uses mini-games to get kids to learn something through growth mindset,” Tiernan said. “It helps them understand that math is hard work. It’s about seeing a concept, failing at it, but getting right back into it and solving the problem.”

Students are not automatically dinged for incorrect answers, Tiernan said. They get several chances to come up with the solution.

“It’s great for me to see a local school succeed in a national contest,” Tiernan said. “The contest was designed to be fair to all schools, not just the bigger ones like Madison.”

This was the first year that Gresham had participated in the contest. Superintendent Newell Haffner received an email on the K-6 program and asked his staff if anyone would be interested in presenting it to students. He said that Taylor Welcing, a middle/high school math teacher, volunteered and worked with other teachers to integrate it into their daily lessons.

“It was our first year with a new math curriculum, and Taylor kind of jumped on it and organized it,” Haffner said. “I was shocked by a lot that we did as well as we did.”

According to Welcing, students had their own user names with the program and signed on each morning to solve problems and brain teasers. She said she set the program up so that the Matific problems they dealt with on a given day would be in conjunction with what they were currently learning in the classroom.

“Based on how well they did, they got a certain number of stars for each mission, so they could get between one and four stars,” Welcing said. “It was very engaging; it was like a game to them.”

Welcing noted that one mission at the sixth-grade level involved turning on light bulbs in a certain order with a goal of getting all of them lit, and sometimes incorrect steps would turn off already-lit bulbs.

“There’s also a monster book, and when you get a certain number of stars, it would unlock a new monster,” Welcing said. “They wanted to see how many monsters they could unlock and collect.”

She knew about Gresham’s ranking early on, but she did not know until the day before the celebration that Gresham had been competing against 3,000 other schools. Welcing noted that, until the closing days of the competition, Gresham had been ranked in the top 10 nationwide.

“I thought Gresham could do very well because we’re a really motivated bunch of people, and we really hyped the kids up on it,” Welcing said.

The school had 153 students participate, and three classrooms received trophies for breaking into the top 20 among classrooms. Kindergarten ranked 18th nationally, and the second and fifth grades finished 19th.


Individual grade winners at Gresham Community School in the Matific competition:

Kindergarten: Aubrey Miller, first; Maya John, second

First grade: Haily Fischer, first; John Brady, second

Second grade: Jaiden Maasch, first; Mason Wilber, second

Third grade: Tori Ferguson, first; Addison Fischer, second

Fourth grade: Holly Brady, first; Jamie Gonzalez, second

Fifth grade: Kaidyen Zaitz, first; Colby Belongia, second

Sixth grade: Maddie Haffner, first; Jessa Jensen, second