The SumThingsUp Challenge Needs Your Help!

Richard M. Rasiej, Founder


As members of AMTE, we are devoted to the improvement of mathematics teacher education, not only at the preservice level, but also at the professional development level. The obvious beneficiaries of such improvement are the students in those teachers’ classrooms.

I am developing a new type of math contest called The SumThingsUp Challenge, which has been designed with the simultaneous goals of increasing student engagement with mathematical concepts and providing classroom teachers with a greater variety of instructional approaches and explanations for teaching those concepts. The key difference between this contest and all others is that the competitors will be college and university level mathematicians and others with advanced degrees in mathematics, and the judges will be third, fourth, and fifth grade students.

The first edition of the contest will be a pilot version, centered in the Los Angeles area. My goal is to open the contest to classroom registration and entries from mathematicians around late October or early November, close off entries in mid-December, have the judging completed by February, with the winners named in March. If the pilot is deemed a success, a larger version, probably nationwide, would be implemented in the fall of 2017.

The contest will have a question for each grade. The questions will be ones that might typically get asked by students, such as “Is there a smallest fraction?”, “Why are prime numbers important?”, or “Why does a negative times a negative always equal a positive?” Mathematicians will respond to one of three questions by either producting a short video or creating a graphically-oriented slide presentation. After undergoing a preliminary review for accuracy, submitted entries will be distributed in random groups of five entries to participating classrooms. The participating classroom will have been signed up for the contest by the classroom teacher. Students will then evaluate their classroom’s allocation of entries and vote on which entry provided the most informative and memorable response to the question. Once the entries have been voted upon, the entries will be rank ordered, and then the top five entries will be resent to each participating classroom for a second round of voting in order to determine the ultimate winner. The winner will receive a cash prize. There will be no cost to the students, teachers, or schools for participation, including any certificates or posters or other materials that may be produced.

Where I could use the help of fellow AMTE members is in the development of a questions bank. In many cases, the concepts that teachers have the most difficulty with explaining well are the very concepts that they themselves struggle with.  Please consider providing questions that, in your experience, preservice teachers and in-service teachers struggle with.  Having such questions used in the contest will help both the students judging the answers and their teachers. You can send your questions via email to me, Richard Rasiej.  In addition, feel free to check out the SumThingsUp website. Thank you in advance for your help.