May 16, 2024

Multiplying CCUSD Students’ Enthusiasm for Math


On April 13, 2024, 150 4th and 5th grade students from Culver City and beyond participated in the 17th Annual Excellence in Mathematics Culver City “E = MC2” Math Olympiad Tournament held at El Rincon Elementary School. Student Math Clubs that meet weekly at all five CCUSD elementary schools sent two teams each to the tournament. Math Coaches worked closely with the student teams to prepare them for the county-wide tournament, where teams from 26 elementary schools across Los Angeles County competed.

The Culver City Education Foundation has long provided financial and administrative support for the Mathletes program which is led by volunteer Dr. Jason Frand, a retired UCLA Professor. The overall goal is to create a supportive environment where students who are excited about math can come together and inspire each other.
This year an additional six-week math enrichment program was offered on Sundays, free of charge. Seventy CCUSD elementary school students engaged in solving complex math word problems together, with 20 middle and high school student volunteers serving as Assistant Math Coaches.

The Mathletes program also provided educators with an opportunity to learn. A professional development workshop took place on February 15th, where math teachers and coaches were trained in strategies to build their students’ individual strengths as well as collaborative group skills.

Tournament attendees heard welcome remarks from El Rincon Principal Dr. Amy Hodge, CCUSD Superintendent Brian Lucas and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Angela Baxter. Also in attendance were CCUSD School Board Members Stephanie Loredo and Triston Ezidore.

Participants competed both at an individual level and in teams of five. Students had 30 minutes to solve a set of math problems on their own, and another 30 minutes to tackle another set of problems as a team. Administrative Coordinator Kia Lazarre explained, “Working as part of a team gives you different perspectives. Picking each other’s’ brains gives you new ways to look at a problem. I was really proud of all of the students – seeing how deliberate they were. It was a test of endurance to get through those problems.” A Mathlete shared, “I don’t know if I got any of them right but I was focused and I gave it my best. That’s all that matters.”

Parents and guardians of mathletes were invited to the school library to try their own hand at solving the same problems to see how they measured up. As judges tallied the final results, everyone gathered to listen to tournament co-chair Professor Blake Mellor present the steps to solve the problems correctly. The event concluded with a round of team tie-breakers, an awards ceremony, and an energetic group math cheer! CCUSD students took home one Gold Medal, five Silver Medals, and one Bronze Medal.

Along with Dr. Jason Frand, the tournament was made possible by Site and Proctor Chair Rosie LaBriola, Event Co-Chair Dr. Blake Mellor, Tournament Coordinator and Volunteer Chair Kia Lazarre, Head Scorer Dr. Bob Knopf, and solution presenter Karly Salisbury. In addition to the event staff listed above, there were many parent and student volunteers, site proctors, scorers, and team coaches that helped make the event a success.

By taking part in a structured team-based math program with encouraging coaches and middle and high school-aged mentors, Math Olympiad organizers hope that these 4th and 5th grade participants will be inspired to pursue future careers in math and science. Dr. Frand adds that even hesitant children who may say, “I’m not good at math” should be encouraged to give it a try if they enjoy problem-solving of any kind.

Math Coach Mr. Mason Sustayta shared, “Sure, (our team) didn’t come away with any medals or trophies this time, but I’m super proud of how bravely and skillfully our scholars competed in such a tough tournament. It’s awesome to see all these brilliant young minds getting challenged in such a fun and competitive way. And a special shoutout to our CCUSD Math Olympiads— my admiration for them is like dividing by zero… it can’t be defined!