"Number 42, score!" announces East Tipp Middle School teacher Tom Rice to the delight of Team 42 while students from other math teams call his name in hope he'll check their answer next.
Rice is running to check answers in a timed practice mathematics competition before school starts.
The excitement of math competitions sparks a lot interest at East Tipp — an impressive 40 percent of the student body participate.
"I love it because I can have fun with new people and get to meet new people that I might not normally talk to," says eighth-grade student Tanner Logan.
The list of math competitions includes the Indiana Math League, the Rocket City Math League and Purple Comet Math Meet. Some events are designed for individuals and others are for teams.
Several parents and grandparents work with the students in the fall when practice sessions begin. Later, students break into teams to compete on challenging, nonstandard math problems. Rice selects eight to 10 students to begin rigorous training in preparation for a national competition called MathCounts. If the team does well at the chapter level, it qualifies for state. East Tipp students have qualified for the state finals 20 times in the last 24 years and placed in the top 10 in the state 10 times.
"I enjoy learning new math tricks every day with my MathCounts friends," says eighth-grade student Matthew Roberts. "I have learned how to do complex math problems, conquered my fear of fractions
, and have learned to never completely give up on a problem."