Waving blue pom-poms and screaming like their favorite team just scored the winning point, students at South Valley Middle School on Tuesday celebrated the school’s placement at the top of the leaderboard in a Bay Area math competition.
Called LearnStorm, the initiative from Mountain View-based Khan Academy, is a nine-week math challenge open to all students in grades 3-12 that uses gaming concepts and a point reward system to encourage students as they gain greater math proficiency.
At a special assembly on Tuesday, representatives from the academy along with Gilroy Unified School District superintendent, Deborah Flores; GUSD Board of Education member James Pace and school principal Anisha Munshi celebrated the school’s achievement in the math competition rankings, receiving a trophy for placing No. 1 on the Mastery Total Points leaderboard.
“It is an amazing program,” said Valerie Kelly, South Valley Middle School math teacher and math department chair. During the assembly, Kelly presented top-scoring students with a certificates for their hard work.
“The competition keeps them on task,” said Kelly, highlighting the point structure and the competition’s use of videos and diagrams to keep students engaged.
All of the school’s math classes—more than 800 students—participated in the 9-week competition, which will culminate at a grand ceremony at Levis Stadium on April 5, where select schools in the Bay Area will be recognized.
Flores said the competition, which started on January 29, and is made available to schools for free, rewards perseverance and reinforces skills taught in the classroom.
“I love the way the program is set up,” she said, adding that her own son participated in a trial run of the competition last year at Gilroy High School. “It helps kids work through their math problems to figure out the answer.”
Flores also appreciated the timeliness of the competition as a statewide math test is coming up in mid-April and the extra math preparation may help improve student scores.
“I am hopeful that it will benefit individual performance in those assessments,” she said.
Started as a pilot program at select schools in the region last year, the Khan Academy’s LearnStorm challenge is now available in counties throughout the greater Bay Area, from Napa to Santa Cruz.
In the Bay Area, 1,000 schools participated in the competition this year, according to the Khan Academy.
In addition to South Valley Middle School, Gilroy schools that participated include Gilroy High School, which placed second in Mastery below South Valley Middle School, Christopher High, El Roble Elementary, Glen View Elementary and GECA (Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy).
To keep up with the latest school rankings, go to: learnstorm2016.org.