At Payson Community Christian School, third- and fourth-graders have many different mathematical concepts to learn, from equations to long division. With a solid foundation of basic math skills -- addition, subtraction, multiplication and division -- they are able to master other math concepts.
Even when two grades are learning together in the same room, teacher Sheila Nord does not find it difficult.
"I alternate days of formal instruction and independent work. I have a teaching assistant to help the students doing independent work," she said.
Her students use math manipulatives such as Unifix cubes; base ten blocks, pattern blocks, etc., to visualize math concepts. Also, throughout the year, they have various learning centers with math games. In addition, there are computers in the classroom with math software.
"My goal is to make math fun," she said.
Top math students from PCCS recently won in the Association of Christian Schools International math competition.
Eighth-grader Ricky Sexton and three of Nord's students, third-graders Spencer Herrera and Marissa Mathews, and fourth-grader Aubrey Pond, placed in the top five percent of the 1,358 students in 55 schools. Each student competed at his or her grade level in a series of four tests of computation and reasoning.
Sexton said he competed against about 20 other students his age and he did not study anything different than he otherwise would have to prepare.
"Competing was just like taking a regular test," he said. "I like math because I understand it."
"We are ahead of public schools," said PCCS administrator Teresa Purtee. "We consider PCCS overall to be a college preparatory school. We have sophomores who are taking college courses right now," Purtee said.
Nord said she would continue to work with her students as they master their math concepts for the upcoming Math Olympics in March. They don't achieve numeric places, but receive "superior," "excellent" or "good" standings.
Children who hadn't participated in the competition applauded their winning classmates.
"I hope I'm in the top ten next year," said Alex Lewus.
Nord is proud of all her students.
"God has given them each special talents and gifts," she said.
She once had a boy in her math class who would say that he didn't like math.
"As soon as he mastered his math skills, he not only loved math, but wanted to answer all the problems on the board during instruction time," she said.
When a child consistently does problems correctly on the board, daily work, timed tests, quizzes, and tests, Nord knows they can do the math.
"When I hear them say, ‘I can do it,' it is thrilling," she said.
These are examples of questions included on ACSI math tests.
Grade 8, round 4 problem:
Consecutive numbers are numbers that follow in order, such as 1, 2, 3 etc. Find the smallest of five consecutive numbers whose sum is 90.
Grade 4, round 3 problem:
Mr. Roof's science class was studying birds. In one week, they saw 78 birds eat sunflower seeds, 88 birds eat wild birdseed and 46 birds eat worms. How many birds ate seeds?