Success with Competition

By Charles Jones III —

For the past five years, Claremont International High School has hosted a math Olympiad for the International High Schools of New York City. In 2018 it was my third time personally hosting the event, and the first time I felt very successful.

That year I was not only successful with the math Olympiad, but also in my class and with individual students. Healthy competition is a teacher’s best friend. In 2018 I selected a math team of 14 students to compete in the math Olympiad. The practice session was revealing to myself and the students. Some students really enjoyed the competition and wished to compete, while others realized that the speed and competitiveness was not for them! This created a “buzz” about the math Olympiad. Unbeknownst to me, a healthy dose of competitiveness emerged in my own students. They were competing for a spot on the team!

Creating this competition also cultivated a sense of community with our students. This small group felt they were a part of something bigger than themselves. One student in particular was having trouble socially that year, and she told me that being a part of the math Olympiad team helped her feel more connected to the Claremont community. As the Olympiad approached, other students continued to remind me how excited they were for the competition. In my math classroom there was constant excitement that showed me the students were really invested in the competition.

On the day of the competition we had a great turn out. From the Claremont student body, we had about 12 student volunteers helping to set up the day and prepare for the event. I could tell that they were proud to be hosting the Olympiad and  to represent Claremont International. It was as good of a learning experience for them as it was for me. Many of the responsibilities of the day were student lead and driven, and the students were in charge. They showed me how truly capable they are and how effective it is to have distributed leadership.

Many of the attending schools provided positive feedback that day, and  the students enjoyed the competitive nature and the success with competition. Even though it was “high stakes,” it was designed as a game and the students enjoyed it. The constructive feedback will be taken into consideration and perhaps we will make changes to the format for next year, but overall it was a great experience for everyone.

The Math Olympiad provided a rich activity for students across the different schools that they will hopefully remember long after they leave high school. It built strength within the Claremont math community, and also brought the Internationals high school math community together to celebrate a day of math achievement. I am looking forward to making this competition bigger and better this year!

Charles Jones III is a teacher at Claremont International High School.
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