Students prepare for fifth- and sixth-grade Challenge 24 competition

Photo Courtesy Diane Mautone
Students who will be competing at the county level in Challenge 24, an arithmetic competition, top row, from left, Ruichen Li, Isabella Zurlo, Bryant Gordon, Teresa Ruto and Gabriella Garcia, Arianna Cece; bottom row, from left, Gabby Kot, Sophia Sorge and Kiani Sanchez.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield school district finals for an arithmetic competition among fifth- and sixth-graders was held at the Bloomfield Middle School on Friday, March 15, with nine students advancing to the next round at the county level. Each school held its own preliminary rounds.

The competition is called “Challenge 24” and is played with cards having four numbers on a roulette wheel. Students are required to factor the numbers on a card — add, subtract, divide or multiply them in some combination — and come up with a total of 24.

The roulette wheels are in levels of difficulty with the easiest having only single-digit numbers. How to play? OK. At the least difficult level, if shown a card with the numbers 6-6-2-5, how would someone factor them and come up with 24? Here’s how: five minus two is three; three times six is 18; and 18 plus six is 24. Bingo. No kidding, competitive students would have figured this one out in a snap. That is because they are taught to have something known as “strong math factoring families.” And they practice.

Once a student has the solution, they respond by first announcing the last factoring combination. In the example above, a student would say “18 plus six equals 24.” Then they would give all the factoring combinations to reach 24. Initially saying the last factoring step helps to focus the student and keep them from becoming confused when disclosing the entire process.

The competition was held in the middle school library. Students were seated at tables in groups of four with Challenge 24 coaches acting as proctors. The event was coordinated by Diane Mautone.

The winning student, grade and school were: Ruichen Li, fifth-grade, Berkeley; Gabby Kot, sixth-grade, Brookdale; Gabriela Garcia, sixth-grade, Carteret; Bryant Gordon, sixth-grade, Carteret; Teresa Ruto, sixth-grade, Carteret; Kiani Sanchez, sixth-grade, Demarest School;  Isabella Zurlo, sixth-grade, Fairview School; Sophia Sorge, fifth-grade; and alternate Arianna Cece,sixth-grade, Watsessing.

To be noted among the winning students, this is Ruichen’s first year in America. She is from China. Gabby advanced to the county finals last year while Bryant and Kiani were in the Bloomfield district finals last year.

The proctors, unless otherwise noted, are classroom teachers: Karen Sangiovanni, Berkeley, fifth-grade; Deborah Sedlacek, Brookdale, first-grade; Jean Barbetta; Carteret, media specialist; Jessica Cappello, Demarest, third-grade/gifted and talented; Angelo Locantore, Fairview, sixth-grade; Amanda Sibilio, Franklin, resource teacher; Diane Mautone, Oak View, fifth-grade; and Lisa Fisbeck, Watsessing, kindergarten. Maria DelPizzo, a paraprofessional from Franklin, served as a proctor, but is not a coach.

The winning students will now go to the Essex County Challenge 24 Competition scheduled for Wednesday, June 5, at Millburn Middle School.