On Your Mark, Get Set ... Calculate!

Two students at the white board

It was a race to the finish, with four teams of competitors vying for points. But this competition wasn’t taking place on a field or a court and there were no balls, bats or racquets. Instead, the playing field was a whiteboard and players were armed with markers and calculators. It was a race to solve three-by-three systems of equations.

High school math teacher Angela Manzo set up the math races for the first few days back to school after the winter recess, to help get students energized to learn after the break. Ms. Manzo’s Algebra 2 classes solved a problem with three mathematical equations as teams, working collaboratively to determine each step of the solution. Standing at the whiteboard, team members took turns calculating portions of the problem and handing off the next step to their teammates. Each team had a different problem to solve and points were awarded based on finishing times. The team with the most points after the period was over was the winner.

“Sometimes students feel isolated at their desks solving mathematical equations,” Ms. Manzo said. “This gave them the opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other and understand that math does not need to be a solitary experience.”

The three-by-three equations are important for those thinking about careers in coding or video design, among others. According to Ms. Manzo, these problems help to calculate width, length, height and depth for three-dimensional designs, including the programming of 3D printers and the latest video games.