World Math Day has traditionally been an eventful time for students at Bemidji Middle School, but this year was particularly exciting.
A team of 32 BMS eighth-graders ranked 11th place in the world in their age bracket after competing in the World Math Day challenge.
A celebration was held in their honor Friday at the school.
Every year on March 1, students from around the world compete in an online computer program called World Math Day. The website, www.worldmathsday.com, was designed four years ago to encourage students aged 5-18 to participate in math using an online approach.
Each game lasts for 60 seconds and students can play up to 500 games, earning points for each correct answer. The students who answer the most questions appear in the Hall of Fame. Students cannot select their level but move up as they progress.
At BMS, nearly all of the eighth-grade students participate in the event. Thirty-two students were designated to represent BMS' overall score.
During the school day on March 1, the 32 students spent all day in the school's computer lab answering math question through the World Math Day website without the use of a calculator or paper. When they finished, they scored a total of 63,093 points, placing them 11th place overall.
BMS math teacher Mary Kobilka said she was stunned when she learned the students ranked 11th in the world. One BMS student answered 64 questions correctly in one minute, the fastest any BMS student has ever answered questions.
"The kids absolutely love it," Kobilka said.
A tryout to be on the 32-member team was held earlier in the year through a series of practice sessions at BMS. The students who correctly answered the most math questions made the team. Schools can have up to 45 students participate on a World Math Day team, but BMS was limited to 32 because of the number of computers in its lab.
"Students get quite an improvement in their accuracy," Kobilka said. "They showed vast improvement in their speed at doing basic math facts. It is adding, subtracting, dividing and mixed operations."
Kobilka said she saw some students improve their speed and accuracy by 300 to 400 percent throughout the course of the World Math Day event.
This year the World Math Day website added an adult category for ages 19 to 119. However, only students in the 4-18 age categories are eligible for prizes.
Teachers can attain class printouts of their students' individual math scores from playing the games. Some teachers choose to make their own Hall of Fame for their students.
Kobilka said she has seen many of the students show enthusiasm for math after participating in World Math Day.
"They love it," she said. "I have kids from a couple years ago ask if we were doing World Math Day again,"
She is even considering having eighth-grade alumni participate in the World Math Day challenge in the future.
"It really does turn students on to math, especially because it has a competitive format, which makes it different," Kobilka said.