Recognition is a boost for student and school, says teacher
When he’s bored, Grade 8 student Braden Cok fills out online math quizzes.
“I like a math,” he says. “I do a lot of it.”
It’s no surprise that the Laurentian Hills Christian School student achieved a perfect score in a national math competition this spring.
About 80,000 Grade 7 and 8 students take the University of Waterloo Gauss math test every year.
Last year about 250 students got a perfect score. So, Braden’s math skills rank him in the top third of one per cent among his peers.
Braden says because he went into the test hoping and aiming for a perfect score he wasn’t entirely surprised that he achieved it.
His math teacher Randy Zondag says he’s happy to see Braden’s skill recognized.
He points out that artistic and athletic skills are often and more easily applauded than critical thinking and mathematical ability.
“I thought it would be really great if there was a way for us to honour those who have a gift in math and make a big deal out of this particular test,” says Zondag, who has chosen to have his students participate in the optional test for the past several years.
This year he called the local paper, the Kitchener Record, which picked up Braden’s story and ran a full-length feature.
Zondag says that the exposure is not only great for Braden but also can help shape how the general community sees Christian schools.
He says he’s had questions from general community members around the quality of education Christian schools provide, apart from the biblical worldview aspect of it.
“People in the larger community often don’t know how we stack up, how seriously we take academics in the Christian school. So I think it serves us well, not only in our school, but Christian schools across Ontario, when something good academically happens.”
While Braden’s achievement was in large part due to his natural gifting, the role of the school’s math program and the math teacher can’t be discounted.
Zondag, who has been teaching for six years, believes there’s great value in rote math, and includes practice drills everyday in the winter and fall. He also runs one class a week dedicated to problem solving.
But he also has a real passion for math and says he believes that excitement trickles down to his students.
“I love math,” he says. “It excites me and students doing well excites me, and I know that wears off on my students. They get that it’s important to me.”
The Gauss math test is created by a committee of teachers from across Canada, and is supervised by the University of Waterloo.
Students who do well on the test excel in mathematical computation, concepts and problem-solving skills.