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Students help students through Gauss math competition

Written on July 10th, 2009

Ottawa Christian School student takes top score in group of schools

Students at an Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) member school have a chance to contribute to their broader community through a major math competition.

Since 2000, Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) students have helped run the Gauss math contest for a group of Christian elementary schools.

“Without the work of many of our students such an incredible undertaking could not take place year after year,” says William Groot, TDChristian vice-principal of scheduling.

Groot, who says he enjoyed writing math contests as a student, spearheaded the organization of the Gauss math contest for Christian schools.

The first year TDChristian administered the contest, 499 Grade 7 and 8 students from 23 Christian schools took part.

Since that time the numbers have grown, with as many as 2,000 students participating from more than 50 schools. In addition to OACS member schools, about 14 Canadian Reformed schools also take part.

Groot notes that having one Christian high school organizing the contest provides additional support for the Christian elementary schools in teaching math.

Collaborating on the test also allows participating schools to get a sense of how students rank compared to other Christian school students, reduces the cost for the test, and provides a forum for students to be recognized within the group. Results for the test are posted online.

But a major highlight of this story is the work high school students put into making the test happen, according to Groot.

He says TDChristian students easily clock more than 50 volunteer hours a year, sorting the papers, preparing mailings, typing in scores, and marking and re-marking the tests.

“It is cool to see students at high school contribute to the learning of grade school students,” he says.

”I think a major benefit of the Gauss contest organization is that high school students see a way that they can promote something in their own community. It has become a central reason we continue to do the contest: students helping students,” he adds. “Affecting our communities in positive ways is central to who we are as Christians.”

This past spring, Braden Cok of Laurentian Hills Christian School achieved a perfect grade on the Grade 8 Gauss test.

Caleb Jonker, a Grade 7 student at Ottawa Christian School (OCS) achieved the highest academic score on the Gauss among the 875 students from participating Christian schools.

Cheryl Thomson, OCS math teacher, says this was the first time an OCS student took the top score, which she attributes to Caleb’s giftedness in math, his competitive drive, and his hard work preparing for the contest.

Thomson also leads a math club at the school, which provides students with the opportunity to study enrichment math and which helps them get an edge on the subject. Several OCS students also placed very well on the Grade 8 test.

The Gauss test is created by the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) at the University of Waterloo.

In 2008, about 80,000 students took the test from schools across Canada as well as some international schools.

Groot is an alumnus of the University of Waterloo Honours Math Teaching Option and became involved with CEMC in the ‘90s as a contest marker, which led to his administering the test for Christian schools.

The OACS supports the contest with funding and distribution efforts.