The first-ever Math Meet involving the city's three elementary schools saw fifth-grade competitors using old-fashioned pencil and paper to solve problems, all the while hoping that their minds were as sharp as the new No. 2 pencils they were using.
The upper floor of the library at Woodland Heights Elementary School was the site of yesterday's competition, whre the math teams from that school and the Pleasant Street and Elm Street elementary schools competed, three students on each team at six tables, in team and individual categories.
There were no spectators, only school staffers monitoring the timed events in which the teams were given 12 minutes to solve a series of problems in each round. Silence, which allowed the students to concentrate, was broken only by whispered comments among teammates, who did their work on individual sheets of paper but were required to submit just one paper with their answers.
Other competitors slated to take part in different rounds waited in a holding area on the lower level of the library, where they were able to work with their teachers and could see their parents watching from the audience, which numbered around 30.
"This is historic, the first time it's ever been done in Laconia," said Laconia School Board member Mal Murray, who is himself a former high school math teacher and was enthused about the meet.
"This was brought together by a group of people who know there are lots of talented math students in the city elementary schools and wanted to do something for them,'' said Murray, who credited Pleasant Street Elementary School Principal David Levesque with coming up with the idea for a series of math meets involving city elementary schools.
Levesque said that the idea came up this past summer during discussions he had with semi-retired Laconia High School math teacher and former head of the Laconia High School Math Department Marc Corriveau, who agreed to establish a format for the meets and work with the elementary school principals and staff on planning and running the events.
Levesque said the competitors all wore identically lettered T-shirts which bore the red, green or blue colors of their respective schools' athletic teams to help build team spirit and give them the kind of recognition their skills deserve.
For the students it was intense, and some admitted to the same kind of nervousness that players on sports teams experience before and during competitions.
'"I was nervous. I was afraid we got something wrong because we came up with different answers," said Rhea Ganchi, a member of the Woodland Heights team. Teammate Matthew DeDucca said he thought he had done well.
Joey Baldi of the Elm Street School team said he was nervous, too, but thought he had "done pretty good" as he reviewed his answers with fifth-grade teacher Brian Bolduc, who observed that some of the questions dealt with fractions, one of the areas currently being studied by the students.
Paul and Jessica Ganchi were among the parents in the audience and said they were excited when they heard about the math meet.
''I like it when they bring the three schools together. They're all going to be classmates next year at the middle school, so it's good for the kids to get know each other now,'' said Jessica Ganchi.
Other parents included Jennifer Laramie, whose daughter Isabelle is a student at Pleasant Street, who said she had hoped that she would be able to watch the actual competition, and Chris Legassie, whose son Darik attends Pleasant Street.
"He loves math and was very excited about being on a math team," said Legassie.
Pleasant Street and Elm Street tied for first place in yesterday's meet with 23 points each while Woodland Heights tallied 15 points.
Levesque said the math meets will resume after the holiday break with both Pleasant Street and Elm Street, hosting meets before a final meet, which will be held in the spring at the middle school.
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